A broken-down Oregon team left Boise last week, with its NCAA hopes improved after a 62-50 win over the Broncos. With Bol Bol, Kenny Wooten, and Abu Kigab out, and Louis King just getting back into shape, the Ducks gave themselves a shot of optimism as conference play begins.
Then everything changed. Kigab stated he’s transferring this week, and now Bol looks like his career is done at Oregon before it even gets started. Oregon now has only nine scholarship players. Wooten is out for another three weeks, and half of the eight remaining are true freshmen. The biggest issue, though, isn’t even the lack of a bench. Without Bol, Oregon has no legit scoring go-to scoring threat, and nobody else looks ready to step into that role.
Yes, the Boise State game was ugly, but from here on out that’s probably how they’re going to have to win. Ehab Amin did everything for Oregon while Payton Pritchard shot 1-10 and King shot 3-11. The shooting was so bad early on that Oregon was, at one point, 4-24 from the floor I think. 4-26? I don’t know; I stopped watching the stats.
Regardless of how many bad shooters they put on the floor, Oregon’s conference opener with Oregon State is critical. Here’s why. Oregon needs 11 wins to get to 20. That won’t guarantee an NCAA berth, but that and a win in the Pac-12 Tournament might. If they can get 21 to 22 wins they’ll be on the bubble. The committee also often looks at how you’ve finished more than how you started. A 22-11 record would almost certainly put them in.
Here’s how they get 12 wins in conference play: sweep Oregon State, Washington State, and California. Not easy, but even with all the injuries Oregon can win those games.
Then split with Stanford, Washington, Arizona, UCLA and USC. Win one of two from Colorado and Utah on the road. (Oregon only plays those teams on the road this year; there’s no return trip to Eugene.) Then pray for a win over ASU. (Not likely, at least right now.)
That would be 12-6 in conference to go with a 9-4 non-conference record, or 21-10 overall. Two wins and a loss in the conference tourney would leave them at 23-11, and likely in. With anything less than 20 wins in the regular season, they will probably need to win the conference tourney, and that’s why the OSU game is so important. They need to win the games they’re supposed to win, regardless of who they have available.
Oregon needs to be 2-1 after the first two weekends. The rumor was that Wooten would be out a month, and it will be a month since his injury when they play Arizona and ASU. Here’s hoping he heals fast, or at least on time.
Prediction: Oregon goes 9-9 in conference, 18-13 overall and goes to the NIT. That would be a miracle after losing Bol and Kigab from the team and losing King and Wooten for a month each.
Water Cooler Notes
Oregon’s offense continued its usual horrible start, opening with 4-21 overall and 1-10 on threes. The series of ugly, dizzying jumpers was agonizing to watch, as they often had the chance to drive to the hoop and get to the free-throw line. They need to wait to start shooting the jumpers until a few minutes into the game, after they’ve broken a sweat.
Boise State scored two points in the first eight minutes. The Ducks’ length really bothered the Broncos as Amin, Norris, King and VJ Bailey hassled Boise St. into 19 turnovers during the night.
The short bench means the Duck big men have to play position defense and not reach. Norris is notably foul prone as, many freshman big men are. His three quick fouls Saturday put Coach Altman in a bind. With Wooten out and and Bol done, Norris and Francis Okoro are Oregon’s only true big men.
White will be back to playing at the power forward spot again, and that’s bad for everyone. I hate to say this, but he’s a rebounding ghost. Dozens of minutes, and the ball doesn’t even find him but one time in a game? That has to change if Oregon is to have any chance of surviving this.
Meanwhile, if Oregon suffers even one more injury they’re going to be playing walk-ons significant minutes, and while I love the heart of those guys, Oregon’s not beating Arizona, ASU, or maybe anyone else if the walk-ons have to play more than 10 minutes a game.
I watched Oregon recruit Cassius Stanley play last week against Gonzaga Prep of Spokane. He’s smooooooth! Unbelievably athletic with a nice shot. His shot isn’t consistent yet and his shooting pocket isn’t perfect, but he’s relentless defensively, rebounds like a power forward and handles it like a point guard. It’s easy to see why UCLA, USC, and Oregon have all been recruiting him for years. On a team loaded with sons of NBA greats, he’s their best player right now.
Oregon recruit Scottie Barnes of the Class of 2020 was there with University High in Ft. Lauderdale. He’s a 6′ 8″ power forward with a college-ready body, and he can play some point guard. He had the unenviable task of trying to stop Gonzaga Prep’s Anton Watson, a polished player with explosive quickness, who is committed to Gonzaga. Watson’s thundering baseline dunk brought Portland Trailblazer Zach Collins right to his feet.
The nation’s number one player in this year’s class, Duke commit Vernon Carey Jr., was also on hand. An insanely talented big man, he’s 7 ft., 255 lbs. and moves like a guard. He took it on the wing twice, crossed the defender over, and laid it in or dunked. A bruising player with quick feet, and one of the prettiest shots for a big man that you’ll see anywhere.
Scottie Pippen and Kenyon Martin showed up to support their sons. John Stockton was there somewhere, too, but I missed him. Former Trailblazer Steve Blake also sat courtside and spent a few minutes talking to Draymond Green, who was in town for Saturday’s game with Portland.
It’s a terrific tournament. If you love basketball I highly recommend it.
Lake Oswego, Oregon
Top Photo Credit: Eugene Johnson
Bob Rodes, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester Tennessee.
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