The Oregon Ducks are in their first Final Four in 78 years. The North Carolina Tar Heels are in their 20th. However, in a year in which many blue bloods have gone down, the Ducks could be the next team to knock off a powerhouse program when the two squads battle on Saturday in Glendale, Arizona for a spot in the national championship.
Both teams are coming off impressive wins, as UNC defeated Kentucky in the Elite Eight, while Oregon downed Kansas. The Heels will look to dominate the Ducks on the glass. UNC has the nation's best rebounding margin at +13, and Oregon lost one of their best interior players, Chris Boucher, after he tore his ACL in the Pac-12 tournament.
In Boucher's place, Oregon will turn to Jordan Bell, who grabbed 13 rebounds in the win over Kansas. Bell will have to battle Kennedy Meeks, who had 17 boards against Kentucky.
“If I, Roy Williams, could only pick one thing, I would always pick rebounding as the most significant factor in determining who wins the game,” said North Carolina's coach in anticipation of Saturday's contest.
Oregon will rely on two players to lead their offense: Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey. Brooks averaged a team-leading 16.3 points per game during the regular season. Dorsey has been on a tear as of late, scoring 20 points in seven consecutive games.
“The thing I'm really most pleased with Tyler is not only has his scoring increased, his rebounding production," said Oregon coach Dana Altman. "He started the conference tournament off with nine rebounds against Arizona State. Defensively he's been very active. So it's been his entire game that has really picked up.”
UNC will turn to Justin Jackson, who led the team in scoring this year with 18.2 points per game. Forward Luke Maye scored 20 points and hit the game-winning shot in the Elite Eight, so he might just be North Carolina’s secret weapon. The Tar Heels are back in the Final Four after losing last year’s championship to Villanova at the buzzer.
“In the locker room, what I did is tried to tell them, "Let's focus on using this feeling as fuel, as motivation, to work extremely hard in the offseason,'" coach Williams said about his message after last year's loss. "And that's really what I used it for. Maybe two or three times they've heard me say, 'What's the most fun you've ever had in basketball?' And every one of them says last year, the run to Monday night.”
Oregon has found their own adversity to rally around, however: the loss of Boucher.
“We just had each of our guys step up and try to do a little bit more," Altman said. "And fortunately for us Jordan Bell has really stepped up. And each of the guys has done just a little bit more, I think, to help fill the big hole that Chris left.”
Oregon will look to use athleticism to combat UNC’s physical style. These two teams will clash on Saturday night at 8:49 p.m. on CBS.