The Oregon Ducks needed overtime to beat Ole Miss this past weekend but they emerged victorious in their first real road test of the season. With the win, Oregon is now 8-0 and off to their best start since the 13-0 opening in 2006 — a team led by Aaron Brooks.
Mississippi hit 15 three-pointers and guard Marshall Henderson had a career-high 39 points but were not able to stop the Ducks from rallying to the 115-105 win. Mike Moser had 24 points and 10 rebounds to lead Oregon in scoring and Johnathan Loyd added 23 points and 15 assists, the second most in Oregon school history.
The overtime win failed to impress voters around the nation as the previously No. 13-ranked Ducks found themselves slip two spots in the AP poll.
Oregon’s resume now includes victories over three 2012 NCAA tournament teams in Pacific, Georgetown and Mississippi, and, if their success continues, could very well find themselves contending with new-No. 1 Arizona for a second consecutive Pac-12 title, and ultimately set themselves up for a deep run into March Madness.
Currently, Oregon is one of ten remaining unbeaten in the top 25, and rank third in the nation in points per game with 91.4, and fifth in field goal percentage, at .529. Their offense is much more balanced than a season ago, as they now have six players averaging double digits on the year, led by transfers Joseph Young and Mike Moser.
Junior guard Young has been impeccable for the Ducks, averaging over 20 points per game, while shooting .539 percent from the field. Moser, a former all-MWC forward, has been productive on offense with 15.0 points a game and Oregon’s best rebounder, at 7.4 rebounds per game.
This extra help will be complemented by the return of sophomores Ben Carter and Dominic Artis to the lineup. Both players missed the beginning of the season due to violating NCAA bylaws, in which they each received nine-game suspensions.
Carter and Artis will be back before conference play starts, which will be a much-needed increase of depth for taking on a talented Pac-12 conference. Oregon, along with No. 1 Arizona and No. 21 Colorado, represent the Pac-12 in the current top 25 rankings and seem to be the early front-runners in the race to the conference championship.
Arizona is the new No. 1 team in the nation, after Michigan State lost to North Carolina last week. The Wildcats are 9-0 to start the season, with their most impressive win coming over No. 6 Duke. They are led by Nick Johnson, star freshman Aaron Gordon, and rising point guard T.J. McConnell. The three are the top three scorers on the team and have been absolutely phenomenal on both offense and defense for Arizona.
The Wildcats will host Oregon in a highly-anticipated matchup on Feb. 6. Arizona traveled up to Matt Knight Arena last January ranked fourth nationally, and got upset 70-66.
Colorado is another challenging team on Oregon’s conference schedule. The Buffaloes are coming off a huge win over then-No. 6 Kansas at home in buzzer-beater fashion. They are 9-1 to start the 2013-2014 campaign, with their only loss coming to No. 14 Baylor in the season opener. The competitive schedule doesn’t end anytime soon though, as Marcus Smart and No. 7 Oklahoma State travel to face Colorado in Boulder on Dec. 21.
The Ducks have the depth and talent to play with just about any team in the country. Their perimeter defense has held teams to a mere 26% shooting from behind the arc, but what they will need to improve is their rebounding efficiency, something they really excelled in last year. Right now, they rank 169th in the nation, but that should increase with return of Ben Carter in two games.
Oregon will return to the hardwood Dec. 14 against an 8-1 Illinois team at Matthew Knight Arena.