After getting off to a slow start following an injury to star big man Bol Bol, the Oregon Ducks were a team that struggled to find their identity and for the most part, flew under the radar. Despite having one of the strongest freshman classes in the nation (even without Bol), the Ducks weren’t able to consistently win games and desperately needed a leader heading into the Pac-12 tournament facing elimination from the NCAA tournament. Enter Payton Pritchard, the former Oregon high school basketball legend took a few years to develop for the Ducks but has recently showcased the clutch play that once helped him lead his high school team to four consecutive straight state titles.
On the back of the extremely strong play of Pritchard, the Ducks ran through the Pac-12 tournament and secured themselves an NCAA tournament bid. As a 12 seed, they upset Wisconsin before holding off a very underrated UC Irvine squad in the round of 32. Pritchard has been a driving force and catalyst to the offense during the run and paired with the excellent above the rim play of Kenny Wooten, the Ducks have a formidable inside-outside punch to go along with their lockdown defense.
Payton Pritchard Takes Unique Approach to Oregon’s NCAA Tournament Run
Things weren’t always so peachy for Pritchard on the year and heading into the Ducks’ improbable run, even Pritchard himself didn’t fully believe that Oregon really had much of a shot to go dancing. Pritchard told the LA Times about his thought process following back to back losses against UCLA and USC:
“I want to say I believed that we could make something happen, but, honestly, I probably didn’t. I was looking at it more like, ‘We got four games left. Let’s just have fun with it.’ ”
However, since then the only way to describe Pritchard’s play has been fun as he has led the Ducks on a 10-0 run. An unselfish ball-handler and deceptively crafty shot creator, Pritchard does a great job at pushing the offense and getting his teammates easy and open looks. From a young age, Pritchard’s father, Terry, instilled in him at a young age the value of sharing the basketball and that unselfishness and willingness to run an offense has vaulted him up into a prime leadership role for the Ducks.
Payton Pritchard NCAA Tournament Stats
So far in the tournament, Pritchard has been on fire for the Ducks. In their first matchup against the Wisconsin Badgers, Pritchard went for 19 points, eight assists, and five rebounds on 44% shooting from the field.
Pritchard would go on to have a slightly weaker game against the UC Irvine Anteaters and scored 18 points to go with seven assists and four rebounds while shooting 38% from the field. However, Pritchard did a great job of hanging onto the basketball against Irvine and only committed one turnover.