Coming into the season, no one knew how our beloved Ducks’ basketball program would perform. Many questions, with no answers. To be fair, the Ducks have played their hearts out with the talent that they’ve procured for the season, and their success is unquestionable with their dominant record. Coach Dana Altman has once again taken a difficult situation for the program and flipped it in a direction that no one would have thought was initially possible. The Ducks have put their hearts on the line this season, but is it enough to push them to the next level?
Oregon is now beginning what we’ve all been waiting for as fans; the PAC-12 conference play. Let’s not forget, this is a big time Division 1 program, so even with the least talented roster you could imagine, wins against teams like UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine are mostly expected (no disrespect to their programs). But now we’re getting into conference play and the biggest question is: how does the Ducks’ success from early this season translate into their conference play?
Oregon is 21st in the nation in scoring, 5th in rebounding, 10th in assists, and 15th in blocks. Those are some OUTSTANDING numbers considering the roster they have. Maybe it’s time we put to rest the notion that these guys aren’t as talented as what we expected, and start treating them as if they are legitimate big time players. If that’s the case, we have to analyze them as if they are perfect athletes for this system.
The biggest surprise for the Ducks this past season has been their fantastic rebounding effort. Coach Altman has everyone crashing the boards, from Jordan Bell to Joseph Young. Every single player has been active, and that’s been a huge reason for their strong record. Initially it didn’t seem that the Ducks would have the size to compete with some of the bigger programs as the season progressed — they have proven otherwise. Although the Ducks did lose to a prestigious program in Michigan earlier this season, they out-rebounded them by a ton! They shot a poor 39% from the floor that game, which eventually caught up with them for the loss. But man oh man can these men rebound. With guys like Jordan Bell, Dillon Brooks, and Dwayne Benjamin, Oregon is inhales rebounds like they’re air, and that’s a huge plus for the Ducks going forward.
Oregon’s defense, another plus. These guys are getting to their spots relatively well, but Oregon’s blocking is what has been the game changer. Though the Ducks may lack size, their athleticism is out of this world. Jordan Bell is a blocking machine, and by putting doubt into players’ minds about going inside, he creates worse shooting opportunities for his opponent, leading to transition opportunities, where the Ducks are very effective.
So Oregon can rebound, Oregon can block, but can Oregon score? The Ducks are ranked 10th in assists, and 21st in points. Obviously those are great places to be ranked nationally. To me, the question is not can they score, but how will they respond against conference players? We know that they can bully the lesser teams simply from an athletic standpoint. But how does it all translate when they’re getting defended by some of the greatest players in the nation? Even though earlier in the year Oregon’s arguably smallest worry was its offense, I think it’s going to be the biggest question coming into conference play. Will the Ducks be able to move the ball around well enough to get good looks against these long, athletic, and smart basketball players? I can’t answer that yet, but based on the Ducks’ games against Michigan and VCU earlier this season, their offense could be a potential problem as the season progresses.
For now, we can only sit back, relax, and enjoy the wins as they keep coming in. Hopefully, they will continue when league play begins.
Top photo by Donald Alarie