For those expecting an epic border clash, there was disappointment. For those that were hoping to see a resurgence to save the season, there was despair. For those that predicted a win, there was embarrassment. If you watched looking for discipline and effort, I imagine you turned the channel.
On top of that, there was plenty of celebrating in Oregon on Saturday. Trouble was, it was taking place at that other school 50 miles north of Autzen Stadium. That other school scored 47 points and rushed for almost 500 yards to beat a Pac-12 opponent, something Oregon hasn’t been able to do yet.
Suddenly the jokes and jabs about the Beavers are no longer funny. It is clear that the Ducks are not the best team in the Pac-12, but they may not even be the best football team in this state. All things considered, this fall is one of inconceivable magnitude when you remember that two years ago Oregon was in the National Championship game.
If anyone ever needed a bye week it is Oregon Duck fans. After losing by seven touchdowns, there are those that would argue the best thing for the team is to play as soon as possible.
But the fans need a break from four straight weeks with a ghost-like defense and four consecutive losses. It is hard to find anything redeemable in a 49-point loss. All those who thought Dakota Prukop was holding this team back witnessed his replacement throw an interception on the first offensive play of the game. Even Heisman-caliber running back Royce Freeman had a negative impact, fumbling the ball away a few yards from the opposing end zone. I am certainly not advocating bandwagon fandom or giving up on the team, but it is hard to watch.
Fortunately, the Oregon Ducks basketball season getting started is a sight for sore-losing eyes. With three weeks until tip-off, here are three intriguing match ups on the Ducks’ schedule this season:
1. Alabama: On December 11, the Ducks will play an up-and-coming Alabama squad that should not be underrated, at home in Matthew Knight Arena. Alabama’s coach, Avery Johnson, brings NBA head coaching experience and the ability to teach the game. In his first season, the Tide had four wins against teams ranked in the top 20. When Oregon and Alabama matched up last year, Oregon was able to pull out a four-point victory. Alabama actually held a 12-point lead at halftime, before a comeback led by the Ducks’ 53-percent second-half shooting clinched it in the final minutes.
Being a home game, Oregon should win; they were undefeated in Eugene last year. Still, the game is not out of reach for the Tide. Missing during last year’s contest was Alabama starting point guard Dazon Ingram. At 6’5, he will certainly create some match up challenges. Additionally, the Tide have four transfers who are eligible to play now (two graduate transfers and two Division I transfers who sat out last season). With injuries behind them and talent upgrades at every position, the Tide can push the Ducks when this game rolls around.
2. UNLV: On December 17, the Ducks have a neutral-site game against a team that handed them one of their seven losses last season. Oregon failed to defend UNLV’s three-point shooting adequately and struggled to score against the size that the Runnin’ Rebels presented. UNLV stretched the lead out to 20 points and ended up winning by 11. These two teams are headed in different directions this season. UNLV lost two players from that team to the NBA and couldn’t find a head coach until April.
Expectations for the Rebels this year are low and should provide little resistance to a team as loaded as Oregon. This game is important because both teams play competitive Arizona State, Boise State and Fresno State teams. Also, the Rebels play Duke, which is considered by many to be a pre-season favorite for the National Championship.
So it will be interesting to see how their results against UNLV compare with Oregon’s. Oregon ran Duke off the court in the NCAA tournament last year and many ”experts” seem to have ignored that fact.
3. Arizona: On February 4, the Wildcats will travel to Eugene for a game that will likely decide the Pac-12 championship. Arizona has the talent to get to the Final Four. It would essentially be an at-home tournament for them at the University of Phoenix.
Whether that talent translates into wins is the question mark for them. By February, both teams should be playing their best basketball with full strength lineups. Last season the Ducks went 2-0 against the Wildcats. In the Game 1, Oregon broke Arizona’s 49-game home win streak. In their rematch during the Pac-12 tournament, the Ducks won in overtime on their way to the championship.
Despite Oregon returning the bulk of their roster, there is reason to be confident in Tucson. When Allonzo Trier (14.8 points per game) spurned the NBA for another season at Arizona, he instantly became a candidate for Pac-12 Player of the Year.
Additionally, the Cats have five other players with NBA potential, and had the 5th-best recruiting class last year. This game will be the best measuring stick for the Ducks in the regular season, but win or lose, another rematch in the Pac-12 tournament can be expected.
I think the Ducks’ scoring balance and depth will be too much for the young Wildcats to handle. The results of this match-up will have a definite impact on NCAA tournament seeding.
Top Photo by Gary Breedlove
Disclaimer: Readers: Every writer on FishDuck.com is allowed to express their opinion in their articles. However, articles do not represent the views of the other writers, editors, coaching consultants, management, or the principals of FishDuck.com. Charles Fischer