The Road Splittail Edition

Thank God for the University of Oregon's men's major sports programs. Where would we be without the Ducks right now? No Rose Bowl. No repeat Pac-12 football championships. And we'd be a bagel and three to start the conference basketball season.

Do I need to point out for all you readers (and I use "all" generously) that there is a fine line between 0-3 and 1-2, but the difference between them is also gigantic? 0-3 and you can pack it in. 1-2, get two wins at home against two teams you should beat at home and you are 3-2 and breeze is stiffening your sails.

And by the way, three-game conference losing streaks like the one the Duckies are currently experiencing are rare and special things. It's really hard on the psyche of your team to be ranked and tanked at the same time. The tub toys are circling the drain, lost in the caustic bubble bath, like Harvey Korman's lost froggy, which would have been funnier if it was a ducky.

I was explaining to someone who I will loosely call a Stanford basketball fan about the mind-bogglingly moronic behavior of the UO students' section yelling "useless" at Josh Huestis who was struggling to make shots in the game on Sunday. Its hard to use student and UO in the same sentence successfully by the way, particularly hard for UO students to do so. An insincere apology to my family members for these jokes; sorry Dad, sorry Stacey (my sister), sorry Uncle Mark and Uncle Clark and so on and so forth—and Ducks all. I pointed out to this Stanford fan that when "they" really get on an opponent that hard, the opposition usually wins the game and usually that opponent is spurred to great feats. Not Josh this time, although we should all play so badly that we lead a Pac-12 game in rebounding. But, Josh is in the company of guys like Brevin Knight, Damon Stoudamire, Chris Hernandez, Reggie Miller, Kevin Love, Bill Walton, David Greenwood and so on and so forth have torn the stuffing out the mallards like my dogs just tore apart their Christmas present—a now headless stuffed mallard named D'Anthony.

A question for "duck fan", while standing there in the cheap seats screaming "Useless" at an opponent that you aren't playing, how "useful" did you feel? Did you feel ironic? Did you feel anything at all, or were you already buzzing on your second Blount of the day after pouring the bottom Saturday night's keg on your pancakes. Another question, "How clever did you feel?" That whole two syllable rhyming thing was pretty heady stuff. Usually something that clever is reserved for Beaver fans. Final question duck fan, who was more useless, Josh Huestis or Joseph Yount?

A public service announcement is in order. Will the folks in Waldport, Oregon please return the "d" that they stole from the Oregon backcourt ‘efense' before every shooting guard in the conference establishes a new career high on Matt Court? Not that Bay Area basketball fans really care about the Oregon ‘efense', but it would at least make mores sens if Waldport were easier to pronounce.

And finally my last tangential ad hominem attack on the poor migratory water fowl. Riddle me this duck fan: if Joseph Yount and Damien Dotson were guarding Tim Morris and Mitch Johnson, would Tim or Mitch reach 20 points first?

While Stanford basketball fans spasm about trying to figure out what is right and what is wrong about our basketball team right now, it has to be pointed out that Chasson Randle is not contributing much to the what is wrong side of things. Is he a true point guard? No. But he did just score 53 points, with six assists and one turnover, on 18-of-32 shooting, in the Beaver State. I repeat that for those of you are slow—in 77 minutes on the road, Chasson had a turnover. Chasson is not a true point guard, but if you are going to have to do it anyway, one turnover per road trip while scoring 53 points and shooting 55 percent is the way to go.

That rather shocking turnover statistic aside, the duckies exposed Chasson's lack of left-handed speed-dribble acumen when they full-court pressed late. Chasson can only go about two or three dribbles with the left hand without having to come back to the right hand. Our opponents scouting us will recognize this, so we need to make adjustments and Chasson needs to keep developing his off-hand skills. It is an elevated skill that, frankly, you need maybe 20 times total in a season-- the ability to go 60 feet or so closely guarded using your off-hand while sustaining court vision. Usually there are only 6-8 guys in the league that can do it anyway, and they are very good point guards.

Anthony Brown struggled against the nutria. It is a frustrating thing to watch a guy with such a good stroke miss good shots. But nothing cures a shooting cold like Joseph Young and company. 10-of-12 at the Matt and the two misses were halfway down the bucket. Still, some very solid off-guard ball handling this weekend from Anthony, some seriously smooth difficult finishes against the UO, a lot of concerted defensive effort in both games, 10 rebounds, and a very nice skip pass to John Gage for an easy three. Randle and Brown both found Gage against the mergansers (who apparently didn't remember that Gage led the conference in three-point shooting last year, which is odd, considering the aqua-skunks remembered). When our guards get the conference's best off-bench shooter involved, suddenly our bench is more productive.

Robbie Lemons came off the bench against the tub toys and played great basketball on both ends of the court. If the dude could make a jimmy, he would have reminded me of Downtown Dentist Brown, but alas, dude can't seem to relax and just let the ball fly. However, dive cut Robbie is emblematic of what our starters did very well against the tub toys, but did not do very well against the nutria or the weenies: Our starters found the reserves with passes that led directly to bench productivity. Robbie also got his hand in passing lanes, creating two turnovers that led to fast break points. In fact, Robbie looked really comfortable at the crown of our zone defense, really prepared for the tub toys' offense. 23 minutes against the tub toys. You hope that the coach will remember those minutes and trust them.

Marcus Allen played 22 minutes this weekend. And scored in both games. He showed flashes the athleticism that should make him a nasty defender in this league. And he made tough shots in both games. He probably would have played more against the tub toys, but Robbie Lemons was playing well. But, as with Robbie, if the coach will trust what Marcus put down, then when teams go three smalls on the floor, or we go zone, we may see more Marcus/Robbie, Chasson and Anthony with two bigs in the lineup. Because we have to find some rest minutes for the four starters that are averaging over 35 minutes a game right now. Maybe, just maybe, Marcus can see what Hallice Cooke of the muskrats is doing and say, why not me?

Final Thought: I watched the beavs, the weenies and the splittails this weekend and came away thinking the ducks were the worst coached team in that bunch. Robinson benched some starters, found himself a legitimate Pac-12 starting point guard and reinvigorated his entire squad. Altman benched a few guys and accomplished nothing but losing twice and managing to discombobulate his best player into a vanishing act.

Final, Final Thought: Maybe it's because John Gage actually winced and scowled in pain, or because Robbie Lemons on Sunday looked like he'd been out with me and Bryan McSweeney on a 1989 Rennie's/Taylor's bender Saturday night, but our bench (which is really comprised now of Gage, Lemons, Marcus Allen and the occasional Verhoeven sighting) actually played with great intensity and toughness on this road trip. They had something to show for it statistically after the pintail game, but they played that way against the nutria as well. We have a ways to go defensively, but the toughness off the bench really took a leap forward this weekend.

Final, Final, Final Thought: Hmmm… did someone say wazzou uses a three-guard starting lineup? Anthony Brown, Chasson Randle, lock and load my brothers!!

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