A month into fall, the soggy cold has begun to seep into Eugene. As our football program continues their quest for immortality, Oregon Duck basketball begins their expedition to the NCAA tournament in Atlanta, Georgia where the Final Four will take place. With the improvement from year to year that Dana Altman has illustrated during his tenure, Duck fans everywhere are hoping this is the year they return to the March Madness.
There are two early key games that will determine where the Ducks stand in the national poll before conference play even begins.
November 16th, 2012- Vanderbilt @ Oregon
The Commodores have been to the dance three years in a row, and defeated the Ducks 78-64 last year in their season opener. They also chalked up a victory over the reigning national champs Kentucky in the SEC Championship game last year. Of course that was all last season, but Coach Stallings has added an impressive recruiting class over the past two years. They will be expected to fill in the massive hole left by their star shooting guard John Jenkins, who is now an Atlanta Hawk, and swift point guard Lance Goulbourne, who now plays for the Golden State Warriors.
Strengths: Although the Commodores are young, the key commitments of Vandy’s class in 2010 and 2011 are what make the Commodores a threat this year. Sophomore guards Dai-Jon Parker and Kedren Johnson will be filling in for NBA Rookie guards John Jenkins and Lance Gouldbourne. Both guards will be exciting to watch this year and will definitely produce points quickly.
Parker and Johnson are also complimented with junior guard Rod Odom, who is expected to have a breakthrough year. Odom was highly praised out of high school as he held offers from basketball powerhouses Arizona, West Virginia and Louisville, but in the end Odom chose to be part of the Commodores. Although monstrous in high school, Odom has yet to establish his skill at the collegiate level due to his low playing time. Now that he will be expected to lead their squad this year, look for him to take the reigns with no trouble.
Weaknesses: The Commodores have definitely improved over the course of the past three years, but the key players who stimulated their impressive run will not be around for this upcoming basketball season.
This year has already been labeled as “The Rebuilding Year” by most fans. Vanderbilt’s roster consists of only two upperclassmen, both juniors, as the rest of the team consists of five sophomores and five freshmen. Their youth is what will either make or break their program for the next couple of years.
The most immediate problem for the Commodores is their lack of depth at the center position. Our Ducks can give Vandy fits if we capitalize in the paint early. Josh Henderson is the only true center, which forces the Commodores to bring in their forwards to handle minutes in the paint. Furthermore, their lack of depth leads to their shortage of height in the paint. Expect Altman to exploit this weakness with the new addition of Waverly Austin. A duo involving Austin at center and Tony Woods at power forward should not only be expected throughout this game, but also throughout the season. The past recruiting classes that Altman has produced has definitely added some size to the Duck roster.
November 23rd, 2012- Oregon @ UNLV (Las Vegas Tournament)
The Runnin’ Rebels will be the ultimate test for the Oregon Ducks before conference play begins. The Rebels have been to the NCAA tournament four times in the last five years and have built a solid national presence. Most Duck fans, however, remember the Rebels because of a lost recruiting battle over the number one power forward Anthony Bennett last May. The five-star recruit opted for UNLV after cutting off Kentucky, Louisville and Oregon. After a few weeks of high school transcript dilemma, the NCAA has cleared him to play, which is not good news for opposing teams.
Aside from Bennett, new head coach Dave Rice also managed to get two four-star recruits to commit for the class of 2012. Katin Reinhardt and Savon Goodman likely will not have as big an impact as Anthony Bennett, but it definitely shows the progress of the Rebels over the past years, as they have been able to assemble better talent to their program from year to year.
Strengths: Aside from the recent commitment of Bennett, who will be expected to play as freshman, the Rebels return all-conference player and leading scorer Mike Moser. Moser, who averaged 14 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per game last season, was actually a UCLA commit, but left because of lack of playing time. Moser is in fact from Portland, Oregon and will return to his home state for the game.
Bennett could very well be the perfect compliment to Moser’s game style, as both will likely cover the three and four position. Those two will give our Ducks a very difficult time throughout the game, so expect Oregon to be aggressive down in the paint throughout the course of the game. This should be an attention-grabbing matchup because with the addition of Waverly Austin and play of E.J Singler, the Ducks can stop the Rebels; if they do we can expect a remarkable season.
Weaknesses: The Rebels are a legitimate squad this year, and one can even expect to see them make a name for themselves again and maybe reach the Sweet 16 or the Elite 8. Their only weakness is not really having proven talent at the college level. Beside Moser, the Rebels will have to rely on seniors guards Justin Hawkins and Anthony Marshall, and like Vanderbilt, the Rebels will have to see if their youth can live up to their potential and play key minutes.
The Ducks basketball schedule is rather favorable, but fans should have November 16th and 23rd circled on their calendar because both will serve as test to see where Oregon is at the national level. One can expect Oregon to win out most of their games early in the season, but if the Ducks can pull off a win over Vanderbilt and upset UNLV, the Ducks could very well gain a national foothold before conference play even begins. Duck basketball is just around the counter as the official season tips off on November 10th at the Matthew Knight Arena against Northern Arizona.