LAS VEGAS — Oregon wanted to make a case for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament with its play in the Pac-12 tournament.
And in an 88-57 thumping of Utah in the Pac-12 title game, Oregon sent a pretty strong message to the NCAA selection committee.
By almost every measure Saturday night, the Ducks looked like a team that could win the NCAA tournament come April.
Inside play? They have it. They went toe-to-toe with two of the conference’s best big men in the final two rounds of the conference tourney — Arizona’s Kaleb Tarczewski and Utah’s Jakob Poeltl — and won those battles. A swarming defense? Check. Consider the 12th-ranked Utes’ 57 total points an obvious message to the committee.
And playmakers at every position? Done. Oregon freshman guard Tyler Dorsey had his best all-around game of the season, scoring 23 points and matching his season-best nine boards. Forward Dillon Brooks added 18 points and three steals while forward Chris Boucher continued to be a matchup nightmare for opponents, scoring 15 points (including three 3-pointers) and pulling down seven boards.
In their third trip to the conference title game in four years, the Ducks picked up another trophy for their growing collection. Next, Oregon hopes to add some regional hardware or, particularly if it continues to play like this, a national championship.
Season worsts for the Utes: The Ducks forced Utah into playing some pretty ugly basketball. The Utes’ 21 first-half points were their second-lowest output in a half this season. Their 20 turnovers was a season high and the 88 points they gave up to the Ducks was their second-worst defensive performance of the year. In a game coach Larry Krystkowiak had hoped would light a fire under his players as they headed into the NCAA tournament, the Utes instead leave with arguably the worst two halves of basketball they’ve played this season.
Dwayne Benjamin returns: The senior forward who injured himself in the Ducks’ semifinal Friday (before returning to play in overtime) appeared bothered by his toe injury. Benjamin, who averages eight points and three rebounds in 23 minutes a game, tallied just one rebound and no points in his 12 minutes against the Utes.