South Region Second Round Prediction & Free Pick: #12 Oregon vs. #13 UC Irvine

Date | AuthorJonathan Willis

Last Updated: 2019-03-23

We will have at least one double-digit seed in the Sweet 16. As I predicted earlier, both the No. 12 Oregon Ducks and No. 13 UC Irvine Anteaters had a little March magic up their sleeves, and upset Wisconsin and Kansas State to reach the South Region Second Round. Both teams leaned heavily on their defenses in their wins, and they are going to ask a lot of their defenses again here. This game has the lowest total of any game on Sunday.

The #13 UC Irvine Anteaters are the highest seed left in the NCAA Tournament, and they are sky high after winning their first tournament game ever on Friday. Now, they are looking to double their pleasure by making the Sweet 16 for the first time ever, and the oddsmakers think they have a decent chance. #12 Oregon is just a five-point favorite over UC Irvine, and the total has been set at 124. This South Region Second Round game will be the second game in a doubleheader from the SAP Center in San Jose, California and will tip around 8:40 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 24. It will be broadcast on TBS, and the winner will face either Virginia or Oklahoma next week for a spot in the Elite Eight.

How They Got Here

After a disappointing regular season, Oregon needed to win the PAC 12 Conference Tournament in order to get to the tournament. The Ducks were seen as one of the favorites to win the conference entering the season, but the loss of Bol Bol really hurt them. Oregon floundered through much of the season and through the end of February a spot in March Madness looked beyond their reach as they were 15-12 overall and 6-8 in conference play. The Ducks won four straight at the end of the regular season and four games in four days at the conference tournament to earn the PAC 12’s automatic bid. On Friday, they overcame a sluggish first half to rout Wisconsin 72-54 to advance.

For the last half-decade, UC Irvine has been the best team in the Big West. The Anteaters don’t always win the conference tournament, so we don’t see them in March, but they have been very impressive in the regular season. This year, UC Irvine ended the regular season 27-5 and went 15-1 in conference. The Anteaters knew they needed to win the Big West Conference Tournament in order to not get sent to the NIT again though and responded with three wins in three days. On Friday, they outlasted Kansas State 70-64 in a game where neither team shot particularly well.

Preview

The Ducks have one of the best defenders in the nation in Kenny Wooten. Wooten was phenomenal on the defensive side of the court against Wisconsin, shutting down Ethan Happ in Oregon’s win over Wisconsin. He didn’t have a big stat line with just nine points and six rebounds, but his four blocks were huge in showing that Wisconsin couldn’t go inside reliably. He could have another big game against a UC Irvine team that relies on going inside. The Anteaters shoot threes less offense than almost any other team in the country at 32.4 percent.

UC Irvine is the best team in the country at keeping opponents from scoring in the paint. The Anteaters are allowing a conversion rate of just 40.7 percent on two-point field goals, and they close out well because teams don’t shoot many threes against them either. Kansas State went just 14-32 on two-point field goals against UC Irvine without Dean Wade in the lineup.
For the Anteaters to pull off the upset, Max Hazzard needs to shoot well. He went 5-11 from beyond the arc against Kansas State, and he is hitting 39.6 percent of his threes this year. Evan Leonard is the other main three-point shooter on this team, hitting 41.2 percent of his threes.

Pick: Oregon -5

Athleticism will be the difference here, and Oregon is just a lot more athletic than UC Irvine. They have the size and length to shut down UC Irvine’s offense, and I think the Ducks win handily.

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