INDIANAPOLIS — The Pac 12 continues to steamroll through the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The Big Ten? Not so much.
Iowa, the No. 2 seed in the West region, became the seventh Big Ten team eliminated from the tournament before the Sweet 16 out of the nine that began in the bracket with a 95-80 loss to No. 7 seed Oregon on Monday.
The only teams remaining from the Big Ten are Maryland, which plays No. 2 seed Alabama later Monday, and No. 1 seed Michigan, which faces LSU in the second round.
There was no mystery to why Iowa struggled with this particular matchup: It simply could not guard Oregon, a team that utilizes five athletic wings in the 6-foot-6 range who got to the rim with the greatest of ease and either made layups or found wide open shooters on the perimeter.
The Ducks shot 56 percent for the game, made 11-of-25 from the 3-point line, had 46 points in the paint and only turned it over 11 times.
“It’s a hard team to cover in so many different ways, so they stretch your defense,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “We tried man, zone, pressing them. Had moderate success with all three, not enough with any one.”
Though Oregon did not have the size on the other end to stop 6-foot-11 senior Luka Garza, who had a massive game with 36 points, Iowa’s other players made just 17-of-48 shots.
But the problem for Iowa wasn’t really on the offensive end. Oregon seniors LJ Figueroa and Chris Duarte dominated the game, scoring 21 and 23 points respectively, serving notice that the Ducks will be a tough out in this event.
“They have a bunch of smaller guys, they try to speed the game up really fast,” Garza said. “We can play fast and we could score whenever we wanted to, but they pushed the pace and made it hard for us to get back and rotate and do what we needed to do to get the stops necessary to win this game. It’s unfortunate, but credit to them. They really moved the ball around well.”
This is the fifth time Dana Altman has made the Sweet 16 at Oregon, including twice as a No. 12 seed and now as a No. 7. And it continues the Pac 12’s shocking success in this tournament. On the heels of No. 12 seed Oregon State making the Sweet 16 on Sunday night, the league is now 6-0, not counting the no contest that advanced Oregon into the second round due to COVID-19 protocols affecting its first opponent VCU.
The Pac 12 will have chances to get even more Sweet 16 teams on Monday with USC facing Kansas, UCLA playing Abilene Christian and Colorado going up against Florida State.