Oregon football pummeled Texas in the Alamo Bowl last week. Oregon baseball is No. 6 in preseason rankings. And while that’s all good and fun, this, ladies and gentlemen, is basketball season. So how exactly is the Duck basketball team performing? Well, they are 13-0 and top-10 in the AP Top 25 — an incredible start to a season by any means, and the best start since ’06-’07. However, it is worthwhile noting that a season is not defined by its start but rather by its finish. The Ducks have beaten some decent teams, sure, a number of them tournament caliber, but we are now entering the rigorous conference grind – so let the games begin!
This week Oregon defeated Utah in yet another overtime thriller. And today they play a tough, tenacious Colorado squad that is poised for a lengthy tournament run. So, did defeating teams like Marshall and Georgetown prepare us for Arizona or UCLA?
Short answer: Yes.
Duck basketball is doing special things this season that should properly prepare us for conference play and beyond. Utah is a good squad, but the grind truly begins today. Today we will defeat Colorado, and in doing so, develop a model for the way the remainder of the season should work. We will accomplish this in a number of ways.
Embrace Mighty Joe Young
I don’t know what it’s going to take for the nation to recognize Joseph Young, but this guy can flat-out play. Imagine taking the likes of Monta Ellis and placing him in a high-octane college offense – enter Joseph Young. If the Ducks continue to trust him to make plays in and out of transition as they have, he should be able to outshine opposing star Spencer Dinwiddie and lead the Ducks to a victory. Colorado, like most teams, lacks the defensive prowess required to counter the 19 points per game coming their way from Young. They can’t hope to stop him; they can only hope to contain him.
Win the Scoring Battle
The Ducks are THE high-octane offense. In fact, they rank No. 1 in the nation in points per game. So, although obvious, Oregon only needs to win the scoring battle to win. Unlike the Ducks, Colorado is ranked in the middle of the pack at 91st in points per game. You tell me – what’s the difference between No. 91 and No. 1? I’d say my $90 is on the table in favor of a Ducks victory.
Remember the Tough Times
Though Oregon is scoring more than 90 ppg, teams are able to keep the games close. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, as it provides the Ducks with the late game experiences they need to succeed come tourney time. If today’s matchup is close in the second half, then the Ducks will look back at the tough times they’ve had and remember what it took to win. Also unlike Oregon, Colorado has lost a late-minute game this season.
Remember the Good Times
Oregon’s had some tough games, but all-in-all they’ve won every single one of them. Basically, the Ducks know how to win. One or two wins may be luck, but 13 is skill. Look for the Ducks to play their game as they have all season and make Colorado a Duck win — number 14.
Oregon is ranked 10th in the polls; Colorado is No. 20. By the simplest of standards, the Ducks are expected to win. They understand that they are a good and powerful team now, but with great power comes great responsibility — Oregon will not simply back down to a team of equal stature, or any team for that matter. But they cannot sit back, meet expectations by scoring 91 points, and then get upset by the Buffaloes when they score 92. They need to score 100 points and limit Colorado to 50. They need Joseph Young to drop 25 and limit Dinwiddie to five. They need to exceed expectations, and by looking at their justifiably high ranking, they will do just that.
Main photo by Kevin Cline