Oregon is off to a roaring start in Pac-12 men’s basketball and expectations are looking up for this year’s team to make a triumphant return to the NCAA tournament. With the Pac-12 North left on the schedule, the Ducks are in position to secure a nice seed.
The Ducks (16-2, 5-0) are undefeated in Pac-12 play, in a year that seemed like maybe the young conference might be full of…ahem…and vinegar instead of just rookie inexperience. Oregon handled the Arizona schools at home and then swept through Los Angeles like the flu, managing to outmuscle both UCLA and USC in wins that were closer than they looked, but that featured a fearless Oregon team handling their business down the stretch.
Now they have a chance to go 6-0 in conference for the first time in 87 years. 87 years! We’ve seen some good teams in the past decade. The “big 3” era of Luke Ridnour-Luke Jackson-Freddy Jones. The era of Tajuan Porter launching moon shot threes. The Aaron Brooks as a responsible senior era. This squad lacks a flashy scoring threat or a big name, and instead presents a well-rounded team. This is a group that has a quiet, consistent, workmanlike approach that is getting it done on both ends of the floor.
Oregon has 5 guys averaging over 10 points a game (including two freshmen). That’s spreading it around. Frosh PG Dominic Artis is like Tajuan Porter with better decision-making. He’s like a mini Damian Lillard. Oaktown represent!
The Ducks are getting a big lift with points in the paint. When Tony Woods is getting career scoring nights, you know we’re getting high-percentage shots. Woods isn’t one of these wimpy renaissance big guys who likes to step out and shoot. Once he masters a quicker drop-step, he’s going to be tough to stop underneath.
Boards and Rips
Coach Altman has Oregon hustling, getting steals and securing big rebounds, as seen in these UCLA highlights. The Ducks are #6 in the country in rebound margin and 30th in steals per game. It’s leading to transition buckets, and when we aren’t missing layups and point blank shots, it puts a lot of pressure on our opponents.
Season Outlook: It’s All About The Seed
This year’s team could contend for the regular season Conference title, but it’ll be a tough road. With a couple of road letdowns against Stanford, Cal and Colorado, look for Oregon to finish 24-8, 13-5 in the Pac-12. That may not be good enough to finish first, but it should be enough for a top 5 seed. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has us at a 7 seed now, but trending upward in Bracketology. Here’s to a fun March!
Dan Hendricks is a graduate of the University of Oregon, where he spent four years working in the Athletic Media Relations office. He also served a year in Public Relations at the Pac-12 Conference, and worked game nights for the Golden State Warriors. His favorite journalism moment was being threatened by Rasheed Wallace during a post-game interview. He currently resides in Los Angeles, where he’s constantly irritated by USC fans.
You can follow him on Twitter @DanHustle
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