The Ducks have begun their conference play, and are off to a fantastic start. Oregon is now 2-1 in PAC-12 play, and will looking to continue their strong play against Washington State on Thursday. Our Mighty Ducks have been proving us wrong the entire season, and at this point I’ve bought into their style of play.
The biggest surprise this season has been their overall defensive play. Arizona proved to be a bit much, but the Ducks held Oregon State to a 35% field goal percentage and Arizona State to 40%. If the Ducks were ever going to make any sort of statements in their conference, it needed to start with defense. They always say that defense wins games, and it never has changed and never will. The beautiful thing about all of this is their overall team defense. Coach Dana Altman has been doing a great job getting his players to lock down on every possession, forcing Oregon’s opponents to shoot poor shots.
A lot of credit needs to be given to the big men in the paint, making sure they let the opponents know that the pain is theirs. Specifically, Jordan Bell has truly stepped up, breaking the single season block record already with 59 blocks. He’s been incredible, as he’s averaging almost four blocks a game! His energy and activity is something you rarely find in players, and Coach Altman understands that. Dillon Brooks, Bell, and Dwayne Benjamin truly make a remarkable stance inside. While the lack of size and depth was initially thought to be an issue, it is something that I don’t believe to be a problem anymore. The Ducks can only beat themselves when it comes to poor rebounding or lack of defense due to a lack of effort. If the energy is there, the Ducks will definitely be in the game.
But with all of the defensive talk, we can’t forget to talk about the offensive side. With all of the defensive stops the Ducks are getting, Oregon still needs to work on its fast-break play. The Ducks could be a potential top 20 team in scoring with all of their athleticism and energy if they could get more transition buckets. A lot of that has to do with the lack of true point-guard play that former star Johnathan Loyd offered the program. With Joseph Young running the offense the majority of the time, it makes it harder for him to be the lethal scorer that we all know him to be, and to distribute the ball at a high level. The lack of a real point-guard is something that will hurt the most throughout the season. Casey Benson has stepped in and done a good job distributing, but when your top assist man in Joe Young is only averaging almost 4 assists a game, that’s not going to get it done. Hopefully Oregon can find someone in its next few recruiting classes who can push the ball well, because the Ducks have the athleticism to really do some damage.
Overall, the ball movement has been good for the Ducks, and they’re getting relatively good looks. When you have a superstar like Joe Young, he covers up a lot of the holes on the team that we can’t necessarily see just by watching the game. I can’t stress this enough, but I think Coach Altman is one of the greatest coaches in the NCAA. His ability to get a team to work cohesively — especially when they’ve never played with one another before — is absolutely phenomenal. No one expected anything out of this squad this season, but once again he’s proven everyone wrong, as he always does. How far can this team go? I couldn’t tell you, nor could Altman. But as long as the Ducks keep a positive mindset and great energy, nothing should stop them from a good season.
Top photo by Donald Alarie