“Coach P really gets his teams to play really well around this time of March,” point guard Peyton Siva said. “Right now, we’re just trying to continue to keep on the roll.”
While defense is the trademark of any Rick Pitino team, these Cardinals have just about perfected his soul-sucking press. There are so many hands in opponents’ faces it looks as if the Cardinals have an extra man or two on the floor. Lanes that were wide-open are suddenly clogged. Open shots simply don’t exist.
And woe to anyone who has the misfortune of bringing the ball up. He’ll be gasping for air by the time he reaches midcourt, the pressure is so suffocating.
The worst part? It’s impossible to truly prepare for it, especially during the NCAA tournament’s short turnarounds.
“All you really can do is get ready for it, talk about it, know what you’re going to have to do against it, have some break presses installed,” Oregon forward E.J. Singler said. “That’s what we’ve been doing this past week, really focusing in on breaking the press and being really strong with the ball and limiting our turnovers.”
To mimic the smothering effect of Louisville’s press, Oregon has been practicing with an extra player on the floor. But unless Usain Bolt dropped by, there’s no way the Ducks could duplicate the Cardinals’ speed.
“There’s not really a lot you can do,” Singler said.
The key is getting the ball across half-court. Do that, and the Ducks are confident their offense can wreak some havoc of its own.
They shot 50 percent from 3-point range against Oklahoma State and Saint Louis. Three players — Damyean Dotson, Carlos Emory and Singler — averaged 11 points or better.
“The half-court offense, they move the ball really well,” Siva said. “They’re shooting lights out — they were 8 for 11 (from 3-point range) against Saint Louis. That’s going to pose a matchup problem for anybody. We have to contain the 3-point line, contain the offensive glass and I think we’ll be OK.”