No. 2 seeded Oregon will face off in the Elite Eight against No. 1 seed Notre Dame. The game will be filled with offensive firepower from both teams, but I’d like to alert you to something special brewing with those Oregon Ducks.
Oregon is the second-best offensive team in the nation, only behind UConn. They score 118.9 points per 100 possessions, lead the league in three-point percentage at 40.6 percent, and play a downright fun brand of basketball by moving the ball and running the break at all times. It’s not an accident every single player who starts for the Ducks averaged double-digits in scoring for the year.
But every great team must have stars and, oh, do the Ducks have that. Oregon is led by sophomore duo Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard, who are taking the NCAA tournament by storm.
Sabrina Ionescu: The triple-double machine
Ionsecu has 10 triple-doubles for her career, which is already an NCAA women’s record — AND she’s only a sophomore. She also already has one this tourney, with two other games falling a rebound or an assist shy. She can truly do it all on the court, and by standing at 5’10, she’s big enough to snag all available rebounds while also athletic enough to make the right pass or take the shot herself after barreling down the court.
Ahead of their game against Notre Dame, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said to ESPN:
I’ve never seen a player, especially so young, already got the record for triple-doubles — but the assists are what’s so impressive to me. It’s a challenge to figure out how to defend them. She can just pick you apart. I mean, she’s just so smart and crafty with the ball. It’s fun watching her when you’re not on the other bench.”
Look how she drives here, initiates the contact, and hits the shot after the foul.
Step back three-pointers? LOL no problem.
Foul her all you want. Sabrina Ionescu still gets buckets. pic.twitter.com/9HK4MjsJu6— espnW (@espnW) March 19, 2018
Sabrina is the force that keeps the Ducks going. Through her, everything else falls into place.
Ruthy Hebard: She literally doesn’t miss at the rim
The Ducks are the best three-point team in the country, but here’s the other problem trying to stop them. Ruthy Hebard is a 6’4 sophomore who shoots 66 percent from the field. At one point this season she had made 33 baskets in a row. She’s virtually unstoppable at the rim, so while you’re trying to guard their three-point shooters, they also have Hebard tearing up inside the paint.
In the Ducks’ Sweet 16 win against Central Michigan, Hebard put up a cool stat line of 23 points, 14 rebounds, and six blocks.
She’s also got spin moves in the post.
And a reverse layup you can’t stop.
Then there is the Ionescu-Hebard connection
Those two standouts are detrimental to other teams on their own. But so many times, Ionescu and Hebard will run a pick-and-roll that just simply can’t be stopped.
If you get them both in the lane, you have to pick your poison. You can let Ionsecu go, where she will surely score on you, or you can force her to pass, where she will absolutely find Hebard in a space to get an easy layup.
Oregon may not win it all this year. Heck, there’s a chance they don’t even make the Final Four. But this is a team that you can look forward to not only for the rest of this tournament, but for years to come as well. They went 32-4 this year with their two best players as sophomores. They’re also stacked with five-star recruits who aren’t even on the court this year.
It’s time to get on the Oregon bandwagon.