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Dancing Time: OSU vs. Oregon Preview

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Oklahoma State is dancing once again.

And for the second time in three seasons, the Cowboys will open play against the red-hot Oregon Ducks. Tip time is set for 5:50 CT on Friday night in Omaha, Neb.

The Basics

No. 8 seed: Oregon (25-9, 13-5)

Mascot: Ducks

Conference: Pac 12

NCAA Tournament appearances: 13

Final 4 appearances: 1 (1939)

National Championships: 1 (1939)

No. 9 seed: Oklahoma State (18-13, 8-10)

Mascot: Cowboys

Conference: Big 12

NCAA Tournament appearances: 27

Final 4 appearances: 6

National Championships: 2 (1945, '46)

A Deeper Look

OSU's 18-13 record is good for the second-worst winning percentage among the entire 64-team tournament field, behind only Hampton (17-17). The Cowboys are one of only three teams in the field that didn't reach the 20-win threshold, but the depth of the Big 12 had a lot to do with that.

Cowboy fans probably aren't riding too high right now considering their team has lost six of its past seven games. To make matters worse, losses to TCU and Texas Tech were included. A lack of offensive weapons has hurt OSU's consistency and has led to hot and cold spurts throughout the season.

Meanwhile, Oregon is trending in the other direction. The Ducks, once 12-6, closed the season by winning 13 of their final 16 games, a run to the Pac 12 title game included.

Key Players

Oregon has one of the nation's top scorers in Joseph Young. The senior guard averages better than 20 points per game and shoots 92 percent from the free throw line. Jalil Abdul-Bassit chips in 8.2 points per game and drains 42 percent of his 3-point shots. Meanwhile, Dillon Brooks and Elgin Cook both score in low double figures and grab around five rebounds per game.

Oklahoma State is a two-man show, with an occasional supporting actor. Le'Bryan Nash, who averages 17 points and 5.6 rebounds, is one of the best players in the whole tournament. OSU will need Nash to have a strong outing in what could be his final college game. Junior Phil Forte is well-recognized as one of the top shooters in the country, but has struggled as of late. In addition to Nash's scoring, the Pokes will need Forte to re-discover his stroke in order to tame the ducks.

In order to win, OSU will likely need at least one other guy to step up. The prime candidate is point guard Anthony Hickey, who, while averaging 9.6 points per game, is just as likely to score three as he is to score 17. When Hickey is engaged offensively, he gives the Cowboys a bigtime threat who can draw attention away from Nash and Forte.

The Cowboys will win if…

OSU's big three all plays well, and at least one other guy contributes something. Tavarius Shine, Jeff Carroll, Jeff Newberry, Layton Hammonds…someone needs to hit some shots. In addition, Oklahoma State will need to control the tempo. Oregon loves to run and averages better than 75 points per game. OSU prefers to play in the low 60s, and if the Pokes can control the pace and use the shot clock wisely, they'll have a good shot.

The Ducks will win if…

Joseph Young pushes the pace past where the Cowboys can keep up. The Ducks played faster and with more fire than did OSU when these two met up in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Oregon won that game 68-55 by jumping all over the Pokes early on and suffocating any comeback attempt. The Ducks, who enter with a deeper roster than OSU's, will look to do the same on Friday. Young is one of the most dangerous players in America and if the Cowboys can't contain him, it'll be another one-and-done for coach Travis Ford.

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