Last year, Tyler Dorsey began making a name for himself by helping the University of Oregon men’s basketball team advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, averaging 13.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists in his first 36 games.
This year, it was the national sports broadcasters who gave Dorsey a new name, calling him “Mr. March.” It’s a fitting moniker for the former Maranatha High School standout after scoring 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting to lift the No. 3 Ducks over No. 1-seeded Kansas, 74-60, in the NCAA Midwest Regional Final at Kansas City’s Sprint Center on Saturday.
Oregon advanced to the Final Four for the first time since 1939, the same year the program won its only national championship, and takes on North Carolina at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., this Saturday at 5:50 p.m.
“We’ve been underdogs in all three games, and that’s the mentality we take,” Dorsey told a TBS reporter following the win over Kansas. “We love it. … I’m just happy for my teammates. We worked so hard for this and left it all on the court.”
The Jayhawks were another victim of Dorsey’s torrid marksmanship, as he shot 6 of 10 from beyond the arc to help the Ducks clinch a historic victory.
“Tyler, I mean, the way he stepped up in the tournament was unbelievable,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said about Dorsey, who has buried a staggering 80% of his 3-point shots in four tourney games. “He is playing with tremendous confidence, not only making plays for himself but for his teammates, and defensively he was solid. When he’s rebounding and playing defensive and gets involved in the whole game, that’s when his offense is best. If he relies too much on his offense, he doesn’t get totally involved in the game, and throughout the tournament he’s gotten really involved in the game.”
Pasadena’s “Mr. March” has elevated his level of play following the season-ending knee injury to senior guard Chris Boucher in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinal against UC Berkeley. Dorsey has scored at least 20 points in the last seven games and made several clutch shots in the process.
The Ducks advanced to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season after Dorsey delivered the game-winning layup in a 69-68 victory over Michigan. The 6-4 guard’s biggest shot came in the second-round contest against Rhode Island. Dorsey pulled up to the top of the key and buried a 3-pointer to give his squad a 75-72 lead with 38 seconds remaining in the game. The shot ended up being the game winner, helping the Ducks advance to the Sweet 16.
The decision to remain in college for at least one more year has benefitted both Oregon and Dorsey, who flirted with the NBA after his freshman season but did not hire an agent. He later withdrew his entry into the draft and opted to remain with the Ducks.
“I’m really fortunate to have Jordan Bell for three years and Tyler for two and Dillon Brooks on the team,” Altman said after the game against Michigan. “We’ve just been really fortunate. We’ve got good players and guys that are unselfish. They want to win. They’re competitive. … They fought their way back. Shows you what kind of competitive spirit they’ve got.”
Dorsey’s mother, Samia, was also glad her son decided to play at least one more season at Oregon.
“You have to get stronger, be mentally tough and study to become a better person,” Samia said about being able to play in the NBA. “I’m happy he went back to school because he wasn’t ready for it. He worked on his game and his skill. He put in a lot of time in the gym. He’s physical and mentally in the right space, and confident. It’s all come together, and he loves to win.”
Dorsey has always been a competitive player, and it showed in his senior season at Maranatha two years ago. He averaged 34.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per game and led the Minutemen to the program’s first-ever CIF Southern Section championship in 2015.
Maranatha head coach Tim Tucker is not surprised to see his former player performing at such a high level on the national stage.
“It’s been phenomenal [watching him], and I’m excited for him,” Tucker said of Dorsey. “It’s not surprising because he did those kinds of things in high school. He’s a kid that’s engaged and loved this time of the year.”
Tucker has also noticed a difference in Dorsey this season with one college season and a FIBA World Championship tournament under his belt.
“He’s gained a wealth of experience and is more mature,” said Tucker. “His body looks better and stronger. The lift on his shot looks better. He thrives in this type of atmosphere. He loves to play in these games and he wants the ball.”
Maranatha Principal John Rouse expressed the same enthusiasm for the Pasadena native.
“I am thrilled to see a Maranatha Minuteman represent his school so well,” Rouse said in an email. “Tyler is a stellar young man whose gentle spirit and soft-spoken courage off the court is often lost when people watch his fierce competitiveness on the court. One of my favorite memories of Tyler at Maranatha is when I would see him encouraging a fellow student as he studied in the Student Center after school, a soft whisper of his character, like one of his many assists on the court.”