Iona-Oregon Preview

Oregon will have to lean on Pac-12 Player of the Year Dillon Brooks even more in the NCAA Tournament.

The third-seeded Ducks will be without shot-blocking big man Chris Boucher as they navigate the rest of the postseason, starting against 14th-seeded Iona in a Midwest Regional game Friday. The game tips off at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif., at 2 p.m. ET.

Oregon (29-5) tied Arizona for first place in the Pac-12, but lost to the Wildcats in the championship game of the Pac-12 tournament a night after losing Boucher to a torn ACL. Iona (22-12) earned an automatic bid after beating Siena to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament.

Boucher was third on the team in scoring and second in rebounding, averaging 11.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. He led the Pac-12 with 2.5 blocked shots per game and was one of the team’s top 3-point shooters.

Oregon will miss all that, as well as his leadership.

“It was a big blow to our team this morning,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said after losing to Arizona on Saturday night. “We were all kind of down, because he’s one of the most popular guys on the team. He’s the one guy that picks everybody up.”

Oregon could be vulnerable to an early upset, but the Ducks still might have enough firepower to make a deep run. Brooks is a hard-playing junior forward who averages 16.3 points per game. Sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey averages 13.3 points. Athletic center Jordan Bell was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

Picking up some of Boucher’s minutes will be Kavell Bigby-Williams, a 6-11 post who was last season’s junior college player of the year.

“We’ve got to bounce back from here — and we’ve got the group to do it,” Altman said. “They’re very competitive. I’d sure like to work with them three more weeks, but to do that we’ve got to think about it one game at a time.”

The Ducks, who advanced to last season’s Elite Eight, are making their fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance under Altman.

Iona won three games in three days to win the MAAC tournament, securing its fourth NCAA Tournament berth in six years. Senior forward Jordan Washington had 21 points and 10 rebounds in an overtime victory over Siena in the championship game. Washington averages team highs of 17.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

The Gaels also got key contributions in the championship game from a group of underclassmen, including freshman guard E.J. Crawford and sophomore guards Rickey McGill and Schadrac Casimir. The trio combined for 36 points.

Iona relies on the 3-pointer; the Gaels’ 836 attempts are 20th most in the country and they make 39.7 percent. They put up 90 points or more in nine games this season.

The Gaels lost five of seven in late December and early January, but they have won 12 of their last 16.

“It’s very special to be here today because we fought so hard,” McGill told The Journal News. “We had ups and downs. People were doubting us, saying we probably wouldn’t make it here. We just fought until the end.”

The winner advances to play No. 6 Creighton or No. 11 Rhode Island.