Following a loss to the Colorado Buffaloes, Oregon men’s basketball is now 1-1 in the Pac-12 and, it would appear, their season is a complete loss. Wait a second . . . not so fast, my friend!
Sure, everyone hates to see a good win streak ended, but we all need to remember, the basketball season is a marathon and not a sprint. These days expectations run high in Eugene, and so far the team is right on track. The Ducks are still far exceeding outside expectations; many sports writers from national news sources picked them to finish around fourth or fifth in the conference.
This is basketball season, not football, so keep in mind that a game on the court, win or lose, does not carry the same weight or consequence as one on the gridiron. Simple: the Ducks lost to another great basketball team, on the road, a team that has historically played them as tough as any team in the Pac-12.
There’s a sports adage that “you learn more from a loss than a win.” Well, we finally learned something this season. The team is still in great shape with a 13-1 overall record and a No. 17 national ranking.
One observation I’ve made is how, for much of the game, Oregon leads but then surrenders their hard fought gains to easy layups and open jumpers.
Clearly, allowing Colorado to hit the century mark indicates that there is need for improvement on defense. A not so obvious problem has been rebounding, which comes from a shortage of physically big players aggressively hitting the boards.
Currently, the team is ranked 131st in rebounding. Even lacking the Bigs, this number is a bit surprising. One would expect more available rebounds for Oregon. This is because opposing teams have a common strategy of getting a quality shot up and then hustling back on defense to shield against our blink-and-you-miss-it offense. The lack of rebounds is not a critical concern, as long as the Ducks keep winning without them, but it’s definitely an area to watch.
At the mid-season mark, there are a lot of successes for this team of transfers to hang their hats on. But nobody’s hangin’ their hats up and kicking off their shoes, another March Madness appearance is within reach. Using last year’s team as a benchmark, there remains much work to be done. Even winning the Pac-12 doesn’t carry much weight with the NCAA tournament selection committee. Last year’s tournament awarded an underwhelming 12-seed to the conference champion.
The Ducks must continue winning to prove the doubters wrong, once again. The focus now is to prepare for, play and win one game at a time. The good news is that as their level of competition escalates, head coach Dana Altman will continue making excellent game plans and adjustments as he has done all season.
So don’t let the end of football season get you down, because basketball season is steaming full speed into one of the most optimistic times in program history. Year after year the team keeps surprising the country, the conference and myself quite honestly. Oregon’s brand, and brand of basketball, is one of the nation’s best and should not be taken for granted.
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck