Omaha, NE (SportsNetwork.com) - Two teams that have not hoisted the NCAA Tournament trophy in several decades get together at the CenturyLink Center on Sunday night, as the Wisconsin Badgers go up against the Oregon Ducks.
Wisconsin, the No. 1 seed in the West Region, has not won it all since 1941 even though it has taken part in the NCAA Tournament every year since 1999 and made it to the Final Four in Dallas a year ago before falling to Kentucky, 74-73. This time around the nation's third-ranked program and the winner of the Big Ten's regular-season and conference tournament titles, began yet another quest toward immortality with an 86-72 defeat of Coastal Carolina in the second round of the event on Friday.
Meanwhile the eighth-seeded Ducks are just happy to be back in the postseason. After losing to Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament, following victories over Colorado and Utah, Oregon stepped up and slipped by Oklahoma State in Omaha two days ago, 79-73.
Similar to the Badgers, Oregon has not taken home the trophy from this event since 1939.
As far as the all-time series is concerned, Wisconsin has won four of the previous six matchups with the Ducks, five of those games taking place on neutral floors. Last year on this very same date, the Badgers captured an 85-77 win close to home at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, a victory which sent Wisconsin to the Sweet 16.
The survivor of this meeting will again head to the Sweet 16 where they will clash with the North Carolina Tar Heels who defeated Arkansas on Saturday night by a final of 87-78.
In a game that featured eight ties and 10 lead changes, the Ducks went from shooting a solid 50 percent from the field in the first half to an even more impressive 60.9 percent after the break, the increase being just enough to hold on for the six-point win against Oklahoma State. Joseph Young led the way with 27 points, hitting all eight of his free-throw opportunities and adding both four rebounds and four assists as he played almost the entire contest. Also adding significant scoring punch on offense were Elgin Cook and Dillon Brooks who dropped in 18 and 17 points, respectively.
Young has been the topic of conversation for the Ducks all season long thanks to his 20.4 ppg and 131 assists, both of which easily pace the program after 35 games. He has converted 89 shots beyond the arc, at a 35.7 percent clip, and has made all but 10 of his 130 chances at the free-throw line, which works out to a stellar 92.3 percent accuracy, which in turn has lifted the entire unit to 76.2 percent at the charity stripe. Cook (13.3 ppg), who is also a fixture at the free-throw line, has converted a team-high 125 attempts for a program that is averaging 75.7 ppg.
Like Young with the Ducks, the Badgers also have a star in the form of Frank Kaminsky. A candidate for national player of the year honors, Kaminsky went on the attack against Coastal Carolina in the first game of the tourney on Friday, erupting for a healthy double-double consisting of 27 points and 12 rebounds, hitting all but four of his 14 shots as the team knocked down 54.1 percent from the field as a whole. Sam Dekker pitched in with 20 points and Nigel Hayes finished with 15 points and eight boards in the triumph.
Winners of seven straight and 17 of the last 18 outings overall, Wisconsin follows the lead set by Kaminsky as he paces the program in scoring (18.4 ppg), rebounds (8.1 rpg), assists (94) and blocked shots (53), and is also one off the pace in the steals department with 30. There is little Kaminsky can't do, whether it be hitting his free-throws at a 76.1 percent clip or stepping out on the perimeter to convert 40.7 percent of his 3-point tries. But still, defenses cannot overlook the contributions made by Dekker (13.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Hayes (12.5, 6.5 rpg) unless they really want to be trampled on.