A Ducks run at the NCAA men’s basketball national championship lies ahead. How the team performs and its final place in the tournament will be destined by its overall balance. Depth and balance have been the defining characteristics of the 2016-2017 team throughout the regular season and so far in the tournament. Balance is a key to how deep the run goes into the tournament.
The individual scoring has been balanced for the season. Five players averaged double-digit scoring for the season according to statistics listed at GoDucks.com. Dillon Brooks (16.0 PPG), Tyler Dorsey (12.4), (the now-injured) Chris Boucher (12.1), Dylan Ennis (10.9) and Jordan Bell (10.8) each contributed consistently to the team’s scoring that averaged 79.2 points per game for the regular season.
Even without Boucher, the four active leading scorers present the threat of a balanced attack. Each can score from outside, in the paint or along the baseline. The team performs better in up-tempo spurts when it forces the action at both ends of the court. It can pile up points quickly during runs when everything clicks thus widening a lead or making up ground during a deficit.
The talent on the team goes deep into the bench. Coach Altman directs a balanced approach to playing time. Ten Ducks appeared in 20 or more games this season. Eight players averaged 20 or more minutes per game across the season. Team depth can be a significant advantage for the teams to advance far into the tournament. The freshness of player’s legs and wind will factor heavily into their tournament production. Any of the 10 players can produce high numbers on any given night. Each of them is capable of out-performing his average in points, rebounds and/or assists.
Then there is the emotional IQ of the Ducks team that adds to its strength. These fiercely competitive Ducks can persevere and fight back from the adversity of lapses in scoring, unfavorable calls, cold shooting by one or more of the top eight players and the array of difficult circumstances that will arise in the coming schedule. The team displays intense camaraderie, and the players play like they love the game and have fun playing it together. These players are seldom rattled by the circumstances of the game, consistently demonstrating self-control along with individual and team discipline.
Maturity and leadership are other hallmarks of this Ducks team that will buoy its tournament odds. The team is somewhat “young” [Payton Pritchard – Fr.; Dorsey – So.; Jordan Bell – Jr.; Casey Benson – Jr.; Brooks – Jr. (though Brooks may opt to make himself available to the NBA); Kavell-Bigby Williams – Jr.; Roman Sorkin – Jr.;], but its players have considerable experience counting summer play, U-19 international play and postseason. Many on the team have played considerable meaningful game minutes – a part of coach Altman’s winning system in which his teams become stronger as the season progresses.
Each player and the overall team has weaknesses, but the great thing about this team and its defining difference from past teams, is its ability to respond and adjust to game-by-game shortcomings or situations. It is balance and depth that allows the team and coach Altman to counteract and overcome deficits. If one player’s shooting is cold, another steps in. If a player is sick or tired another steps up. If a player is being beaten on either side of the ball by his match-up, substitute aptly taking over or the defensive assignment is adjusted. With the luxury of a breather and a chance to watch the action momentarily from the sideline, the players often adjust their play, or the substitute proves to be a better asset in that particular game situation.
The Final Component …
With multiple winning seasons under their belts, more talent than ever, experience, skills and a championship-caliber coach, the Ducks have reached a Tipping Point. A “tipping point” is achieved when a group dramatically changes its behavior by widely adopting a previously rare practice. The Ducks, with coaching and player leadership, have climbed the competitive mountain to an elite stratosphere of championship-worthy teams. They have become balanced enough to endure the rigors of the Big Dance and possess the traits of a team worthy of making it to the top.
The final season AP Poll rankings were 1) Kansas, 2) Villanova, 3) UCLA, 4) Gonzaga, 5) Oregon, 6) North Carolina, 7) Arizona and 8) Kentucky. Villanova is gone and the others are making a run from the Sweet Sixteen for the Championship.
This year’s Ducks have what it takes to win – including the mental toughness and ability to overcome deficits. They have players that combine with hard-to-beat balance. The players want to win it all. The coaches do too. Will they?
Greenville, South Carolina
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