Oregon leads the nation in Scoring and comes in at No. 7 in Field Goal Efficiency – but where’s the love? Granted, some of the other stats rankings aren’t as special: assists, No. 24 (which is certainly solid but not elite) and rebounding, No. 155.
On the surface, rebounding is by far their biggest weakness, but when the ball goes through the hoop the first time, there’s not much chance for an offensive rebound, is there. Still, these latter figures are the reason this year’s flock of Ducks isn’t exactly feeling the love in the national rankings. Despite the seemingly tepid response from the nation, however, Oregon finds itself undefeated and has knocked down some intriguing wins.
Elgin Cook takes it to the hoop against Illinois.
The Ducks have quickly developed some great chemistry and don’t seem at all phased when they find themselves behind in games. Yet they still have yet to play a single complete game. Dana Altman, though pleased with his team’s record, also recognizes that the team has much to do before he feels satisfied.
Defensively, there are too many stretches where they aren’t playing with the intensity necessary to compete in the Pac-12 and the NCAA Tournament. They have played close to the razor’s edge against some of their better opponents, and have managed to eke out wins in some cases. In a few of those, they simply got lucky.
But here they are, undefeated and flirting with a Top Ten ranking. Here they are, having one of the best starts in Duck basketball history. Here they are, leading the nation in scoring, with a wealth of talent that has gelled incredibly quickly. And here they are, knowing they could get better. A lot better.
Joseph Young has been a key part of Oregon’s perfect start to the season.
This is where the intangibles come into play — chemistry, confidence, selflessness. When one player isn’t playing well, someone always seems to step up and take the reins. They play best when it really counts, and they have already had numerous clutch moments in a whirlwind season. They won their first nine games without Dominic Artis and Ben Carter. Now, with those two key players back in the fold, they are even more potent than before.
Johnathan Loyd’s play has been stellar at the point this year.
So how good could this team be? They have beaten some solid, if not spectacular teams, but they have yet to play an elite team. They have scratched and clawed their way out of some late-game deficits, but how will they play when going against the likes of Arizona, UCLA or Colorado? Have they saved the best for the Pac-12 season, and hopefully, the NCAA Tournament? Will Oregon continue to rise or will they come crashing down during the tough division grind? Will those intangibles continue to define them as a team, or will the mediocre stats come back to haunt them?
Only time will tell, but for now, these Ducks seem to have something special. It has been some time since Oregon fans have witnessed such an enjoyable start to the season, and after last year’s successful run in the Big Dance, there is a feeling of hope and optimism in Eugene. Dana Altman is once again showing why he was such a fantastic hire for Oregon.
Top photo by Kevin Cline