Oregon’s the favorite, but the Rams could pull an upset. Tipoff’s scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET on TBS.
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Time: 7:10 p.m. ET
Site: Sacramento, Calif.
The game has a bit of a David-vs.-Goliath feel, because Rhode Island’s an 11th seed and Oregon’s a No. 3. But that might oversimplify things. The Ducks are indeed favorites, but only by about 5.5 points at most books. Ken Pomeroy’s projection model (subscription required) gives Rhode Island a one-in-three shot to win.
The Rams “upset” No. 6 Creighton on Friday, but that didn’t feel a lot like an upset. Rhode Island is a quality team and has hung with good competition often. The Rams play top-notch field-goal defense. They block shots, and they’re incredibly stingy about three-pointers. If you rely on the long ball, Rhody’s not the team you want to play.
Well, Oregon likes the long ball. The Ducks’ offense is their strength, and they’ve been a pretty good shooting team all year. They take a lot of three-pointers; 39 percent of their shots are from deep, and they make 38 percent of those. Shooting from deep is a critical part of the Oregon offense, and it won’t be done easily against Rhode Island.
The Ducks’ best hope to score a bunch is to get to the foul line. Rhode Island does send teams to the stripe often, and if Jordan Bell and Dillon Brooks can spend some time there, they’ll be putting their squad in a good position. That’s the most exploitable Rhode Island weakness, though a lot can change in the course of a 40-minute tournament game.
All in all, expect this one to be pretty fun. Rhode Island’s enough of an underdog that it will feel magical if the Rams win, but it’s good enough that there’s a real shot it happens. That’s a good recipe for drama.