Oregon-Wisconsin Preview

Oregon-Wisconsin Preview

Published Mar. 21, 2015 7:09 p.m. ET

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) Oregon's Joseph Young checked his phone at 8 a.m. Saturday and saw that someone had left him a text message. It wasn't the congratulatory kind he might have expected after his virtuoso performance the night before against Oklahoma State.

No, this one was from a buddy who just happens to play basketball for Wisconsin, a guy named Sam Dekker.

''You ready????'' the text said.

Silly question. Young has been ready for, oh, about 365 days, since the Ducks squandered a double-digit, second-half lead and lost 85-77 to Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament's round of 32 in Milwaukee.


Sunday is the rematch at CenturyLink Center. Same round. Same stakes. This time the winner goes to the Sweet 16 in Los Angeles.

Young, from Houston, and Dekker, from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, became friends last July while attending the LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas. The Ducks' meltdown in Milwaukee was a frequent topic of conversation during their down time.

''I was teasing him a lot last summer. `How did you let your team blow the lead?' I tried to blame it all on him and make him feel bad about it,'' a smiling Dekker said.

Young actually was the least of the Ducks' problems. He scored 29 points against the Badgers, who went on a 25-9 run to wipe out a 12-point halftime deficit and took the lead for good on Ben Brust's 3-pointer with about a minute left. Wisconsin ended up making the Final Four.

The rematch was set up Friday night after Wisconsin (32-3), the No. 1 seed in the West Region, defeated Coastal Carolina 86-72. Earlier, No. 8 Oregon (26-9) beat Oklahoma State 79-73.

Young, who scored 27 points against the Cowboys, said he's watched video of last year's game against Wisconsin only once. The Pac-12 player of the year said he sees no reason to relive that missed opportunity.

Oregon faces a tall task going against the front line of 7-footer Frank Kaminsky, the 6-9 Dekker and 6-8 Nigel Hayes. Freshman Jordan Bell, at 6-9, is the only Oregon starter bigger than 6-6, and he expects to spend much of his time trying to guard Kaminsky.

''That's one of my favorite players,'' Bell said. ''I've tried to watch his moves, his tendencies.''

Kaminsky, the Big Ten player of the year, can famously score inside and outside, but so can Dekker and Hayes. Bell and the Ducks saw their share of top big men in the Pac-12, but they haven't gone against group as imposing as Wisconsin's.

''Dangerous, athletic, skilled, smart, poised,'' Bell said. ''They don't really make many dumb plays and don't turn over the ball. It's going to be a tough.''


Some things to know about the game that sends the winner to Los Angeles for the Sweet 16:

NEW FACES: The core of Wisconsin's lineup is the same as it was for last year's game against Oregon. Kaminsky, Dekker and Josh Gasser are returning starters, and Bronson Koenig and Hayes were reserves who are now starters. Young is the only starter back for the Ducks. Elgin Cook, now a starter, was a reserve and the only other current Oregon player who played against the Badgers.

NOT MISSING A BEAT: Koenig took over as the Badgers' starting point guard after Traevon Jackson broke his foot in mid- January, and he's averaging 8.5 points and shooting a team-best 41 percent on 3-pointers. ''If he would have gone to any other school in the Big Ten, he probably would have been the starting point guard,'' Hayes said.

OMAHA CONNECTION: Ducks coach Dana Altman, who coached Creighton from 1994-2010, isn't the only Oregon staffer with ties to Omaha. Assistant coach Kevin McKenna played at Creighton, was head coach at Nebraska-Omaha and was a Creighton assistant. Assistant Tony Stubblefield played at Nebraska-Omaha and was a student assistant there.

NIGEL'S RISE: Hayes' improvement since last year doesn't surprise Bo Ryan. The Wisconsin coach said he once spotted Hayes doing a before-sunrise workout where he dribbled a basketball and tennis ball. Hayes also is a dedicated student who, Ryan said, excels in ''real classes'' and speaks German and Italian. ''I had four years of French 1, by the way,'' Ryan quipped, ''so I can admire a guy that's taken a couple of languages.''

HONORING PRESIDENT: Oregon players are wearing patches with the letters ''DF'' in honor of former university president Dave Frohnmayer, who died of prostate cancer March 9. Frohnmayer, the state attorney general from 1981-91, led the university from 1994-2009.