By REED NELSON
4:10 p.m. — Tip-off in San Jose (I’m not there, wish I were), which Oregon wins. The St. Louis Billikens have the fourth weirdest mascot in all of college mascots, behind RISD’s Scrotie, the Scottsdale CC Artichokes, and the Ohio State Buckeyes, but the Good Doctor advises us to give anything weird a wide berth, so I’m rightfully scared of what the vaunted Billikens bring to the table. Atlantic 10 teams are 6-0 in the tourney thus far and the NCAA has liked certain expired corn dogs more than the Pac-12 this season. Hopefully the Ducks can make them reconsider. But Oregon turns the ball over, and it’s on.
4:14 p.m. — Oregon is scoreless through the first two and a half minutes, and an early observation, if I were to make one, might look like this: The conferences won’t matter, the names won’t matter and neither will the origin story of the Billiken. What will matter is whether or not Oregon’s big men get comfortable defending along the perimeter and whether or not Oregon’s wing players have shown up to play. St. Louis is a team that can spread the floor well on offense, and Oregon’s defense, while active, isn’t always precise. St. Louis’ offense, however, is: They’re 3.8 turnover margin is 13th in the NCAA.
4:15 p.m. — Oregon knocked off 5th-seeded Oklahoma State on Thursday in the second round, now they’re playing 4th-seeded St. Louis in the third round. If they win today, they’ll face Lau Chan from Virtua Fighter 2 in Round 4. Fight. That was just an excuse for me to bring up Sega Saturn, the only video game system I had as a child. It was amazing, except I could never figure out how to save progress. Instead, I’d just leave the console on for days, which undoubtedly contributed to its early demise. Other non-living-and-breathing things from my childhood that were taken away too soon: Salute Your Shorts, My Brother and Me, Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball, Game Boy and the singing career of Sisco. Just off the top of my head, that is. Back to the game. Oregon’s down 3-2.
4:16 p.m. — If the Ducks keep turning the ball over, this will be ugly. They’ve turned it over three times in the first four and a half minutes. Luckily, Tony Woods hasn’t done normal Tony Woods things (which include racking up copious early fouls for no reason at all, taking a place on the bench and making that place real warm for the rest of the half) and hits an early bucket. The fact that he’s made it inside 18 minutes without picking up foul number two is a revelation. But alas, Oregon forces Jordair Jett to commit a turnover, but E.J. Singler appears to be waiting for a sign from the heavens and can’t find Dotson on the ensuing fast break. Oregon 4, St. Louis 7; 14:48 to play.
4:23 p.m. — In come Jonathan Loyd and Carlos Emory for the Ducks, which is a great thing. If you told me I would be saying that sometime in late March back in February I would have told you to smack me in the face with a nail-encrusted 2×4. But it isn’t February and those two are like Oregon’s very own Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Loyd is obviously the Kid. He’s tiny. But he can dish it! And Emory can hit it! Emory for three and the Ducks take a three-point lead. Oregon 14, St. Louis 11; 11:26 to play in the first.
4:30 p.m. — I miss Rick Majerus. He was cool a coach. That’s all.
4:31 p.m. — Carlos Emory has turned into the scariest Sixth Man in the Pac-12. He has eight points in less than five minutes, and plays a really nice 2-3 combo on both offense and defense.
4:34 p.m. — When Loyd grabs rebounds over your entire team, things are weird. And when he drops dimes through his legs to E.J. Singler, things are even weirder. I love March. I hate brackets. Oregon 19, St. Louis 15; 8:15 to play in the first.
4:41 p.m. — I’ve revised my list. The Billiken is the weirdest mascot in America. I’ve taken context into account and given that St. Louis is actually a real athletic something, but not on par with the Buckeyes (a poisonous nut) prowess, the Billiken, which is a doll, obesely impish in nature that resembles a turtle Buddha. The creature’s likeness came to teacher Florence Pretz in a dream, and it was subsequently mass-produced, promising the purchaser good luck. Or at least that’s what Wikipedia says. Oh, the game, right. Oregon has gone up 11, riding multiple horses like they normally do when things are going well. All-Underrated Freshman Damyean Dotson has nine points and has looked like the best player on the floor about 70 percent of the game. The other 30 percent has belonged to Emory, who now has 10. Those two are, for the moment, way too athletic for anything St. Louis has in play or on ice. If Oregon keeps getting out in transition, St. Louis is screwed. Plain and simple. No amount of Billiken rubbing can offset what Emory and Dotson are bringing right now. If Oregon get’s complacent now, and slows everything down right now though, I’m going to lose it. Oregon 28, St. Louis 18; 3:13 to play in the first.
4:53 p.m. — There are regions of my freezer that are warmer than St. Louis is right now from three, but that hasn’t salted the motivation. They’re 0-8 from long distance, and have barely touched the inside of the rim. Oregon 30, St. Louis 19; 1:49 to play.
4:55 p.m. — Loyd drops Woods a rarely-seen double-bounce pass, which he then cashes in for two points. I don’t know why more sub-5’9 point guards don’t use the double-bounce. It seems so eff… I can’t even type that with a straight face. But it did work, so the implementation wasn’t a failure. St. Louis’ shooting still is; they would have better luck using their elbows. If they channeled Antoine Walker any harder, bad shots might come oozing out their ears. A missed three leads to a Loyd three, which ends the half.
Halftime Update: Oregon 35, St. Louis 19.
- Damyean Dotson — 9 points on 4-5 shooting (1-1 from three), 2 rebounds.
- Carlos Emory — 10 points on 4-6 shooting (1-1 from three), 2 rebounds.
- Jonathan Loyd — 3 points on 1-2 shooting, 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
- E.J. Singler — 7 points on 3-5 shooting.
- Jordair Jett — 6 points on 3-4 shooting, 4 rebounds.
- Dwayne Evans — 2 points on 1-2 shooting, 2 rebounds.
5:18 p.m. — Second half is about underway, and I have a second observation: Bill Walton’s absence from the booth during the tournament is sorely missed. He has a level of well-intentioned unprofessionalism that is nothing short of fantastic. His musings on the Grateful Dead, Pac-12 basketball and fluidity of movement can turn a drab ballgame into a spectacle of misappropriated identities, fumbled deliveries and almost-got-fired-moments. One day, one day.
5:20 p.m. — Well the second half couldn’t have started any worse for Oregon. Three possessions, three turnovers, four Billiken points. Exactly how Altman drew it up. Oregon 35, St. Louis 23; 18:23 to play.
5:22 p.m. — Dominic Artis jumped a pass to halt the run, but the steal ended in poor fashion, which resulted in one of Oregon’s assistant’s getting a bench warning. Artis can’t buy a bucket today, but Kazemi has apparently figured this out, grabbing offensive boards on this last two misses. And I don’t think any Oregon player has slower offensive reflexes than Singler. The dude sees everything about four seconds after the distracted towel boys under the hoop.
5:25 p.m. — St. Louis knocks down their first three of the game, which isn’t an omen until CARLOS EMORY CLANKS A DUNK. Horribly, too. It bounced so far that it might have concussed an usher in the well-lit HP Pavilion. But Damyean Dotson doesn’t believe in omens, nor does his three-point stroke. A steal three seconds later by Loyd negates the good start. Oregon 42, St. Louis 26; 15:22 to play.
5:30 p.m. — Carlos Emory sets up for rebounds like the poster has already been made. And Kazemi plays so gritty and unselfishly, it’s like he’s never heard of posters. For the record, it’s good to have both types of guys on your team, so long as the latter’s numbers outweigh the former’s. Don’t believe the ratio? Ask the Warriors how that whole “second half of the season” thing is going. Oregon 44, St. Louis 28; 13:56 to play.
5:33 p.m. — Andddd Kazemi gets stuffed by the rim for the second time in two games, which is the only negative thing I have to say about him. But if he could’ve completed the -oop section of the alley-oop, Jonathan Loyd might have had a shot at the SportsCenter Top 10, and that would’ve made both Jonathan and I very happy. But Loyd isn’t deterred, he just steals basketballs. He’s like the Artful Dodger and Oliver Twists science-made child this game. He has three steals and has elbowed a Billiken. The last time anyone was this violent with toys on TV was Sid from Toy Story, a.k.a. The Meanest, Most Evil Disney Character Ever (Sorry Team Iceland). And yes the parenthetical is included in that title.
5:38 p.m. — But since I’ve gone on a Loyd-loving tangent, St. Louis has reduced the gap to 11. Or 13. Kazemi says 13, and I trust Arsalan. 13 points makes me nostalgic. Who cares if the time period I’m nostalgic for is last Thursday, when the Ducks were up 13 for the majority of the second half, I still think that’s the emotion I’m feeling. If it’s not that, it’s probably indigestion. Oregon 46, St. Louis 33; 11:16 to play.
5:42 p.m. — Emory, And-1. Just abusing kids on the way to the rim, too. And I mean that in the best way possible. Oregon up 14.
5:44 p.m. — St. Louis is 2-4 at the line in their last two trips, which is probably the worst Comeback Recipe you could employ. And then the announcing team somehow confused Carlos Emory (6’5, 200) with Artis and Loyd (both sub-6’0). Emory is shaken up on a block attempt, but Loyd fills in nicely in the scoring department with a floater. Oregon lead back to 13. Until Damyean Dotson looses his smooth on the Billikens, that is. He’s 3-3 from distance, and the latest three pushes the lead to 16.
5:48 p.m. — Important note: Oregon is in the free-throw bonus with 8:53 to play, up 18.
5:49 p.m. — So is St. Louis, but they need to boost their efficiency. They’re shooting a loser-like 62.5 percent at the moment. But no amount of free-throw shooting can offset the Smooth that is Damyean Dotson. 4-4! The kid is doing a phenomenal Jeremy Lamb impression. He might be the 2-guard of the tournament thus far, and his stock is moving like Google circa February 2013. Oregon 58, St. Louis 39; 8:11 to play.
5:58 p.m. — Dotson has 20 points today, something I can’t remember him doing more than twice all season. If his thing is showing up in huge situations, that’s an awesome thing to have. And wow. He’s 5-5 from three now, and Oregon is up 24, Jordair Jett’s answer notwithstanding. Back to Dotson, though. He’s made 8 three-pointers in Oregon’s first two games after shooting just 31 percent on the season. He’s moving without the ball like he’s been possessed by Rip Hamilton and his stroke has looked identical on all five makes from distance. That stroke has been ludicrously fast, too. It’s awesome. I don’t even care if St. Louis has whittled the lead down to 20 with 5:25 to play, I’ll stop talking about the most creatively spelled Damyean in the nation when that gap drops to 15. Or when the bench stops looking like this:
6:03 p.m. — The biggest story of the day is going to be Oregon, the leprous 12-seed attached to their name and the inability of the NCAA to get these kind of things right. I’m pumped. The NCAA is going to say, “That’s the best part about this tournament! You never know what’s going o happen!” Unless you are a 5-seed. Then you’re going to be forced into playing a catastrophically underrated 12-seed, sometimes the champion of a big conference… cough… SEC and Pac-12… cough… and it’s going to crush you even worse than if you had been properly slated at 8. The other four 4-seeds? Michigan, Syracuse and Kansas State. I know Kansas State lost, but who actually thought that St. Louis should have been the fourth name on that list? Someone wouldn’t belong. The NCAA selection committee has the aptitude of a small, shelled pistachio when it comes to accurately assessing talent. It’s a recent trend, too, but a troubling one. One team beat Arizona, UCLA twice and UNLV this season, on their way to winning a BCS conference championship. The other team’s key wins came over Butler, New Mexico and VCU. Against Kansas, they lost by 14. They did win the A-1o championship, however, and apparently that means way more than the Pac-12 title. I hope I don’t have to verify which team is which, but this sort of thing would’ve never happened 15 years ago. Good conferences were good until proven otherwise, a process which used to take decades. Now it takes five years. Forget history, forget power recruiting tactics, if you’re the NCAA. Let’s trust the little guy. Yo, NCAA! New Mexico keeps losing. Sorry for the rant. The universe didn’t want it I suppose, because the gap has narrowed to 14. But there’s 1:44 to play and Singler is on the line. Now it’s 16. Oregon 71, St. Louis 55; 1:44 to play.
6:14 p.m. — The best part about Oregon’s time control set is Jonathan Loyd running around like he’s playing tag. Only this child’s game of tag ends with a thunderous alley-oop at the other end. Dotson is the high man with 23 points, and the Ducks come back next weekend. Sweet 16 bound!
Final Score: Oregon 74, St. Louis 57
6:16 p.m. — Thanks for checking in, see you on Friday. Nelson, OUT.