Something a sportscaster stated in one of the Sweet 16 pre-game shows really resonated with me, when he offered that, “Every time I watched Oregon this season – they were a little better.” Amen, as the improvement (a classic Dana Altman occurrence every season) became very noticeable for those of us that had been watching from November until now.
I’ll let the other media sources give you a recap of the win over Duke, while I am pondering some of the components that has made this particular team special.
First, it seems from all the quotes that the players genuinely like each other and believe in the head coach/staff at Oregon, and we all know how crucial that is in any sport for the players to exist in a fun atmosphere and will follow the direction of the coach.
The second observation is the “buy-in” into the unique Pinwheel Offense the Ducks run and that I plan to begin breaking down next season. You could gradually see the players go from running it, to embracing and believing in it to get their open shots and be able to find teammates open. (Note: an opening exists at FishDuck.com for a basketball analyst; contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
It seems that last year we saw Elgin Cook make these amazing drives to the basket, and then as last year progressed you noted Dillon Brooks doing the same thing and becoming quite skilled at getting the high-percentage shot or the trip to the foul line.
This year we have seen Brooks and Cook add to their drive-strategies and now see Dwayne Benjamin and Tyler Dorsey doing the same thing! Getting the opposing team in foul trouble has been critical in many games this year.
The Register-Guard (Eugene, Oregon) noted how the Blue Devils had one of the top three players in the nation and three other McDonald’s All-Americans on their squad, and yet it was Oregon who appeared to have more overall athleticism? How could that happen?
Altman worked hard in recruiting in getting a rare 5-star player, Dorsey, to come to Oregon, and I believe he got a little lucky in some players after his initial analysis of their potential talent.
Dana admits he did not see as much skill as has what has been emerging from Brooks over the last year, and Altman concedes that Chris Boucher was somewhat of a risk, as he was concerned about that slim frame holding up over a long season.
Jordan Bell was a player Dana wanted for a long time, and his recruitment/growth was a multi-year project that required a lot of waiting by Oregon for Bell to get academics in order and healing to take place from injuries. In short– a little recruiting luck is needed, and the Ducks hit the jackpot with this group.
Benjamin is worthy of starting at most programs, and yet I have not ever observed an “attitude” by him concerning playing time. But Trevor Manuel, a freshman 4-star forward who has the same athletic profile as Dwayne, Elgin and Brooks, could not wait his turn for playing time and abruptly quit the team before the Pac-12 season began (I wonder if he is reflecting on that decision?). To have Benjamin be so generous and team-oriented is a blessing that you cannot put a value on, and we as fans are grateful.
The final component is the mental attitudes held by the players and reinforced by Dana Altman; the video below is from the Pac-12 Network with Michael Yam, and it delves into the key elements of how the Ducks approached the Duke game and how they will prepare for Oklahoma in the Elite 8.
It is a great two-minute interview and is illuminating about how Brooks makes the mental component a big part in game preparation.
Top Photo by Gary Breedlove