The Oregon Ducks have started off strong this season with a 7-3 record. But records can be deceiving, especially at the beginning of a season when teams are playing lesser talent in non-conference play. Don’t get me wrong, the Ducks have solid, young talent to go up against the opponents they’ve been facing –and as such a big PAC-12 sports school, they had better — but the bigger question is how they will they face up against the Arizona’s and UCLA’s of the PAC-12.
The squad has very, very,VERY young and raw talent that has definitely matured at a much faster pace than another program’s players may have simply due to the amount of playing time and exposure they’re receiving. However, when it comes time to go up against the big boys, it will be interesting to see how Oregon responds.
A huge question for the Ducks coming into the season was how they’d handle playing with such a lack of height. With Waverly Austin graduating, the Ducks were left with a huge gap in the paint. Any team looking to make snoise in any basketball league needs someone inside letting opponent know that it’s “his house.” Well, Oregon’s questions may be answered with the fairly early return of the new guy, 6’10” Michael Chandler.
Although guys like Jordan Bell, Dillon Brooks, and Dwayne Benjamin have done an outstanding job working hard for every rebound, as the season progresses they will become more and more fatigued and may have issues impacting the paint on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. That’s where the big man Chandler comes in.
Chandler offers a variety of skills that weren’t necessarily present in Austin’s game last season. Chandler has some athleticism to go along with a solid inside game. But, what we’re all going to be looking for is how he impacts the rebounding and defending aspects of the game. The Ducks have enough offense to go around that having an above average scorer inside shouldn’t impact them much. The Ducks love to shoot, and we can’t blame them with their sniper in Joseph Young. A huge component of shooting is being able to get the rebound if the shot is missed. Although Young is a superb shooter, he will occasionally miss, and that’s where Chandler comes in to do some damage. He’s going to be the guy who bangs inside to inhale the boards, and get the easy put backs off second chance points. I can’t begin to express how important second chance opportunities are, and if Chandler can stay healthy and make an impact inside on the boards, the Ducks will be in a much better position than they are in as of now.
Though Chandler will need to dominate the paint rebounding, he will also have the challenge of being the man that every guard driving inside fears. He will need to be the man that gives the old Dikembe Mutombo finger wag when guards try to finish at the rim. Defending your own basket is by far the most important aspect of basketball, as everything is generated from that ability. Chandler’s size and athleticism will allow him to be that guy.
A huge component of Chandler’s success will be how Coach Dana Altman decides to handle his minutes. Coming back from an injury can be difficult; however, there’s nothing worse than a coach rushing a player back and loading him with minutes leading to another injury. Especially with a guy like Chandler, Altman is going to want to play him as much as possible to make sure he understands the offensive and defensive schemes before league play starts. All we can hope is that Coach Altman is aware of the situation, and will handle his minutes with care throughout the season.
The Ducks are on a nice start, but the true tests are approaching as the year comes to an end. You can always count on Coach Altman to get his guys ready, though!
Top photo by Craig Strobeck