UO vs. Gonzaga? Not this year
A Gonzaga-Oregon matchup in the NCAA Tournament won't happen in 2017 — unless it's in the championship game.
Because of Oregon's loss to Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament title game, the Ducks received a No. 3 seed — No. 9 overall — and were sent to the Midwest Region. They will open against No. 14 Iona at 11 a.m. Friday in Sacramento, California.
Once-beaten Gonzaga received its second-ever No. 1 seed, stayed in the West Region, and plays at 11 a.m. Thursday against South Dakota State in Salt Lake City.
The Ducks (29-5) and Bulldogs (32-1) might be the best they have ever been, and both have Portland-area talent on their rosters. Jefferson High grad Silas Melson plays for Gonzaga, excelling as a reserve guard, and West Linn's Payton Pritchard has started for the Ducks at point guard since early in the season.
There have long been calls for Gonzaga and Oregon to match up against each other, but it's never happened since the emergence of both schools as NCAA tournament-level teams in the late 1990s.
A lot of work needs to be done — but wouldn't Gonzaga-Oregon in the championship game be epic?
Some people — including CBS' Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis — have picked Gonzaga to make the Final Four.
ESPN's Rece Davis picks both Gonzaga and Oregon to make the Final Four, but North Carolina to win the title.
• Kansas is the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region, and Louisville is No. 2. If the Ducks get past Iona and Rhode Island/Creighton, they'd likely play Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen. The regional semifinals and final will be in Kansas City, Missouri.
The Jayhawks feature another Portland-area player, forward Landen Lucas, the son of former UO player Richard Lucas who prepped at Sunset, Findlay Prep in Las Vegas and Westview.
Lucas has started 26 of 31 games in his senior season and averages 7.9 points and 8.4 rebounds.
Another note as the world turns: Lucas played at Findlay Prep along with Gonzaga's Nigel Williams-Goss, who is from Happy Valley. Oregon's Dillon Brooks played at Findlay Prep after them.
• UO forwards Brooks and Jordan Bell quickly answered a question from reporters on Sunday about what they're playing for now, even without post Chris Boucher, who is out with a knee injury: It's the national championship.
"I think everybody's goal is to win it all," Bell says.
"We're competitors, confident in ourselves," says Brooks, the Pac-12 player of the year. "Wherever we're at, we're ready to play. We're ready to go make something happen. ... We're ready for the team in front of us."
Coach Dana Altman, after last year's Ducks landed their first No. 1 seed, had to tell his team Sunday that "it's just a number" to be seeded third.
"Not too worried about it," he says. "I'm more worried about how losing Chris affects our team. Fortunately we play Friday, that is a break for us, gives us one extra day to put some things together without Chris."
With the Pac-12 loss, and missing Boucher, "we're going to use it as motivation going forward," Oregon guard Tyler Dorsey says.
• Boucher's absence means 6-11 Kavell Bigby-Williams, who has spent the season acclimating from junior-college ball, and 6-7 true freshman Keith Smith, who has missed time with an injury, will ramp up their work in practice to be ready to fill in for Boucher.
"I feel bad for Chris, such a good guy, so much fun to work with the past two years," Altman says. "He's probably the most popular guy on the team. He's the first one to pick another up. We've got to move on. Injuries are part of basketball, part of any sport."
Altman says Bigby-Williams played "really well" against Arizona — "I thought he really gave us a big lift defensively. ... I thought his 14 minutes were really good."
Bigby-Williams is averaging 9.7 minutes in 32 games. Smith is averaging 7.2 minutes in 22 games.
Boucher sat on the bench for the Pac-12 title game, even with his torn left ACL. And, he'll "absolutely" travel with the Ducks, Altman says.
"They'll regroup," Altman says. "Our guys are competitors. They like to compete."
• The UO players and Altman downplayed the possibility of playing Creighton — Altman's former team — in the second round in Sacramento.
"There's a chance they lose, there's a chance we lose," Bell says. "We're just working on Iona right now."
Says Altman: "We'll worry about that if we're fortunate enough to advance and play them on Sunday. I'm happy for Creighton. You spend 16 years at a place — I've always cheered for them. I wish they weren't there (in Midwest Region), I wish they were someplace else. ... I will be cheering for them in the first round."
Creighton plays Rhode Island, and most people pick Rhode Island (which means the Rams would face UO). "Rhode Island is playing as well as anyone right now," Davis said on CBS.
• The Ducks are making their fifth consecutive NCAA tourney appearance under Altman.
Gonzaga will be making its 19th consecutive appearance as the overwhelmingly dominant West Coast Conference program.
• Iona (22-12), of New Rochelle, New York, beat Siena 87-86 in overtime for the Gaels' second consecutive Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title and NCAA berth.
Sam Cassell — the son of former NBA guard Sam Cassell — is in Iona's backcourt. Jordan Washington, a 6-8 forward, leads the Gaels with 17.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
• Arizona earned a No. 2 seed in the West region behind Gonzaga — the Ducks likely would have been the No. 2 in the West had they come out on top in the Pac-12 tourney title game.
The Bulldogs' previous No. 1 seed was in 2012-13 — they beat Southern in the first round, and then lost to Wichita State, with both games also played in Salt Lake City.
• A 6-4 junior, Melson is averaging 24.3 minutes and 7.6 points for Gonzaga. Point guard Williams-Goss is averaging a team-leading 16.9 points.