Payton Pritchard, who was recruited by Wisconsin, will lead Oregon against Badgers
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Payton Pritchard took two unofficial visits to Madison during the recruiting process and liked what he saw from the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball program.
But it wasn’t enough to keep Pritchard from staying home to play for Oregon.
Now, Pritchard will try to lead the Ducks (23-12) past the Badgers (23-10) in an NCAA tournament opener this afternoon at the SAP Center.
Pritchard, a junior point guard, is averaging 12.7 points and 4.6 assists. He’s the only Oregon player to start all 35 games this season.
He was UW’s top target when it was looking for a point guard in the 2016 recruiting class to serve as the heir apparent to Bronson Koenig. Pritchard attended a UW home game in January 2014, a season that ended with the Badgers making the first of back-to-back Final Four appearances.
“They were going to the Final Four, they were producing good players,” Pritchard said. “It just looked like they had good player development. They’re a winning program.”
Pritchard, who is from the Portland area, originally orally committed to Oklahoma before changing his mind during the summer of 2015. That was the same time Bo Ryan announced the 2015-16 season would be his final one at UW, though he later hedged on that statement before ultimately abruptly retiring midway through the season.
Meanwhile, Pritchard decided he wanted to stay home and play for the Ducks.
“I liked Bo Ryan, but I knew he was iffy about how long he was going to be there,” Pritchard said.
UW struck out on a couple of other point guard prospects, including eventual Michigan signee Zavier Simpson, before landing D’Mitrik Trice in the spring. Trice is averaging 11.7 points in his first full season as a starter.
Not so fast, my friend
When UW played Oregon in the 2014 and ’15 NCAA tournaments — the Badgers ended the Ducks’ season both times in the round of 32 — one of the story lines was how different the teams played in terms of tempo.
That’s not the case this time around. Oregon averages 19.0 seconds per offensive possession, which ranks No. 321 of 352 teams nationally per KenPom. That’s still faster than UW, but not by much; the Badgers average 19.9 seconds per possession and are No. 345 in that category.
Ducks coach Dana Altman said his team has had to play slower this season because of its personnel.
“We’re not doing it really, you know, on purpose,” Altman said. “It’s just something that’s kind of worked out that way that we haven’t been able to generate any good looks early. We don’t have a team that has great driving ability. We don’t have a true post-up guy that we can just throw it into right away.
“So some of our offensive possessions we have to manufacture some shots, and because of that it takes a little longer at times.”
Considering both teams play at a slower tempo and feature terrific defenses, a low-scoring game seems like the most likely scenario.
“It could be a grinder,” Pritchard said. “At the same time, we could get hot. I really don’t know. All I’m looking for is trying to get the (win), however that is. It could be 30s, it could be 80s, it doesn’t matter.”
Oregon senior guard Ehab Amin has experience playing against the Badgers.
Back in 2015-16, Amin was a sophomore guard at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi when the Islanders visited the Kohl Center for a non-conference game. The Badgers won 64-49 in what turned out to be Ryan’s final game; he shocked players, fans and media afterward by announcing his retirement effective immediately.
What does Amin remember about playing UW?
“Ethan (Happ) was playing,” he said. “It was a really good team — physical, tough, gritty. They always have the same identity, the slow pace, grind-it-out kind of game, half court, execute, take charges, not a lot of mistakes on both ends. You’ve got to earn everything on both ends.”
Amin, who is from Egypt, attended Delafield St. John’s for a year but didn’t play due to an injury.
“I was there, got my grades in, got some college credits. It was a good experience,” said Amin, who is averaging 5.8 points for the Ducks. “It was a little too cold for me. I had a really bad injury, so I didn’t really have enough recruiting and I ended up going to school in Corpus Christi.”