After Wednesday night’s eye-opening loss to an average Stanford squad, a few things became clear. First off, the Ducks missed freshman phenom Dominic Artis. Without him, the offense struggled to find a rhythm. Another glaring problem for the Ducks was the lack of urgency once they got down early. Certainly it’s a tough order to bring your “A” game every time in a thirty-plus-or-minus game season, and this seemed to be the time it just didn’t happen. If this were the Weather Channel, I’d have to say that the Duck lightning storm that I thought would reduce the Trees to firewood didn’t push its way over the Siskiyous.
Next up: The Bears and my prediction of a bearskin rug. While the absence of Artis hurts more than I expected, I still believe the Pac-12 is the Ducks’ to lose. On paper, the toughest part of their schedule is behind them, with more remaining home games than road games. And the Ducks are deep at the all-important post position, which bodes well against Cal.
In order to salvage the second half of my forecast for the week against Cal – who’s coming off a close win over the Beavers - the Ducks will have to feed the post early and often. The Bears struggle mightily at defending the rim as they allow a lot of penetration. (Just ask Roberto Nelson.) Cal has the Pac-12’s leading scorer in Allen Crabbe, but often struggles as a team to score even when he’s at his best. Even if Crabbe gets his usual 20 ppg, the key for the Ducks will be the low post battle with Tony Woods and Arsalan Kazemi pitted against an average but rugged front-line of Richard Solomon, David Kravish, and Robert Thurman for the Bears. The front line is where the battle will be won Saturday afternoon in Berkeley. While I got burned in my prediction of the Ducks setting fire to the Trees of Stanford, I still believe the Ducks return home with a bearskin rug.