The road is where contenders stand out and pretenders
fall back. Any solid team can win two home games in a weekend against middling
conference competition, like Stanford did against the LA schools Thursday and
Saturday. But now they hit the road for two games in the Beaver State, taking on
the Beavers’ bitter rivals first.
Oregon rolled into this season fresh
off a CBI championship the spring before and was considered a sleeper team by
many as a result; especially with highly-touted Bay Area prospect Jabari Brown
comin’ to town. The Oakland kid was supposed to be a game-changer for Dana Altman’s team.
Now Brown is enrolled at a school that knocked off the
Ducks in the non-conference the previous two seasons (Mizzou).
transfer after two games was hardly the end of the world for Green and Yellow.
The non-conference slate left no surprises: losses to a couple of V schools that
are currently ranked or were ranked at the time of the game and BYU; a win over
it’s-gonna-be-a-long-season-in-our-new-digs-Nebraska and a bunch of
As a result, I wasn’t sure what to make of this
team after 12 games. The Washington weekend gave me a few more clues as to how
good this team could be by being the only Pac-12 school to win a road game in
the opening conference weekend thanks to a 17-point beating of the Cougs. But
followed that up with a 16-point loss at Washington in which they looked very
solid at spots, and completely lost on defense in others. Considering how both
Washington schools have performed thus far, the Ducks sort of held serve again.
This team has certainly improved from last season and will be significantly
tougher in conference for the other 11; it’s just tough to discern how much
better they are.
Oh those Quackers.
They have been pretty helter-skelter on offense. The Ducks
scored fewer than 60 points in three of their last four non-conference games,
but then nailed 69 percent of their shots en route to a 92-spot against Wazzu.
The encore? A 32 percent output on their way to 60 (granted, UW is significantly
better, their 8-5 record at the time be damned). They had some pretty rough moments defensively in that game, too.
Washington is a team that is going to get theirs, but the Huskies were
able to get wide open looks time after time from beyond the arc, whether it was
in the flow of the offense, in transition or even off in-bounds passes. U-Dub
was able to shoot 55 percent from downtown as a result, led by Wilcox’s 6-8 long
range performance. The Ducks’ guards were also unable to stay in front of Tony Wroten, who was able to get to the hoop at ease all night long (but I’m not sure
anybody will be able to stay in front of that Super Frosh).
individual front, the Ducks are led in scoring by Tubby transfer Devoe Joseph at
13 per ever since he has been eligible, but he rarely got off a good shot in a
1-13 outing against the Dawgs - his first single-digit scoring game in the eight
he has played as a Quack. He can score though, and I wouldn’t expect this to be
an extended slump.
Singler and Sim are two guys that have gotten better
with each year in a Duck uniform. Kyle’s little bro has shown a lot of toughness
this year and almost single-handedly kept the Ducks in the game against
Washington for a stretch in the first half; he reminded me a lot of Kyle at
spots in that game with some tough rebounds combined with the athleticism to
make some nice moves in traffic. Sim is a spot-up guy who will make a defense
pay if he can hide in the corner, catch the pass, and release. He makes the kind
of shots that will force an opposing coach on the road to call a timeout; those
are the shots that can cap a run to get the crowd in frenzy. If the Ducks make
any sort of extended run on Thursday, Sim would be the one player to stay
closest to defensively.
But my favorite part of this Duck squad is their
front court. They might not have the most recognizable or best group of forwards
and centers in the Pac, but Olu Ashaolu and Tony Woods are two guys to take very
Olu is not bashful around the rim - the 6’7’’ Louisiana Tech
transfer had five dunks against Washington State as part of a 23-point,
ten-rebound performance. And these aren’t stiff dunks that you see from a
lot of forwards. They are these kinds of dunks: Dunk #1,
As the last clip shows, he doesn’t have to get the ball on the block to be
effective. He appeared to injure his finger in the latter stages of the
Washington game, but he should be good to go.
Woods is the guy I enjoy
watching play most - an all-hustle big man who does the little things so damn
well: boxes out, contests shots without fouling by going straight up, and knows
his role on offense (screen and otherwise stay out of the way unless the easy
dunk is there). Plus, big surprise for a guy on Altman’s squad - he’s a transfer
(Wake Forest), one of seven overall, with this transfer situation being a little
different, and not in a good way.
It has been two years in a row for the
Cardinal in getting a victory in Eugene. Last year, it was in great thanks to
Josh Owens’ best collegiate performance to date with 31 points and 11
rebounds. It’s going to be tougher on Owens this year now that he has to
go up against a 6’11’’ Woods, Ashaolu, or Tyrone Nared, who should be back from
a knee injury. But if the Card can get him the ball consistently, Josh will have
his looks. Owens has been able to mix up his post moves very well these past few
games, and it’s going to take that same approach to keep the Ducks’ bigs
In a conference where every home game feels like a must-win and every road trip needs at least a split, the
Ducks will come out firing after their loss at Cal on Thursday. Hopefully, the Cardinal will be ready for the challenge as they look to improve their postseason resume.
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