Oregon was the overwhelming preseason pick to win the Pac-12.
Then stuff started happening, none of it more impactful than the season-ending foot injury to projected NBA lottery pick Bol Bol.
The Ducks were a bit of a mess there for a while. They were 2-4 at one point in the Pac-12, then 6-8.
Since then, Oregon has won 10 in a row, thanks in large part to the offensive leadership of point guard Payton Pritchard and the defensive disruption of shot-blocking forward Kenny Wooten.
The Ducks have given up more than 61 points just once during their win streak and as No. 12 seeds won their first two NCAA tournaments by at least 18 points.
They are the only remaining Pac-12 team standings, the only seeded lower than No. 5 to reach the Sweet 16.
Top-seeded Virginia offers up its own hot stretch — 11 wins in its past 12 games and an unbeaten season record against teams not ranked among the nation’s top 12.
Last week: Jeff 4-1, Jake 4-1
Season: Jeff 92-31, Jake 81-42
Thursday at Louisville, KY
No. 12 Oregon (25-12) vs. No. 1 Virginia (31-3), 7 p.m. (TBS)
Jake: ESPN gave the Ducks only a 6 percent chance to win, but Oregon is on a roll with 10 straight wins and has the kind of offensive versatility and defensive aggressiveness that can give Virginia trouble. More to the point, Virginia’s brand of methodical offense with outstanding defense just does not seem to play well in the postseason. Despite all of their regular-season success, which includes finishing this season ranked among the AP top six for the fifth time in six years, Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers have never reached the Final Four. Bennett’s Virginia squads have gone beyond the Sweet 16 only once in six previous NCAA Tournament appearances. Pick: Oregon
Jeff: Virginia ranks last in the country in offensive tempo, according to Ken Pomeroy, but that shouldn’t make you think the Cavaliers are a poor offensive team. They actually average nearly 72 points per game . . . because they are patient and efficient. Tony Bennett’s squad has a high-end NBA prospect in sophomore wing D’Andre Hunter, and this team appears better equipped to play the elite-level teams that have derailed them in recent NCAA tournaments. This should be a hell of a game, but I think Virginia is ready to shake the disappointments of the past. If that happens, we face the possibility of an all-ACC Final Four. Pick: Virginia