Both the Oregon Men’s and Women’s basketball teams are undefeated in the early stages of the 2019-2020 season. This is no surprise for the Women, who came into the season as the number-one team in the nation, with many picking them as favorites to win the national championship. However, it has been an unusually fast start for the men, who historically struggle to begin seasons.
There’s no question that the Oregon Women’s Basketball team was going to have a big season. Four returning starters, the addition of grad transfer Minyon Moore and a talented freshman class have created sky-high expectations. Even still, the Ducks were able to shock the nation by defeating Team USA 93-86 in an exhibition game just before the start of the regular season. Think about that: a college team beating the all-star national team with some of the best players in the world.
That just isn’t supposed to happen.
In fact, it’s only the second time that it has ever happened. The first was in 1999, almost exactly 20 years to the date, when the Tennessee Volunteers took down team USA 65-64. If anyone out there didn’t believe the hype of this Lady Ducks team, they are believers now. That was the type of game that can give a team momentum for a special, special year.
Lady Ducks’ Dominance
The Oregon Women have lost none of that momentum to start the regular season. In three (let’s be honest) warm up games, the Ducks cruised to three victories, all by more than 30 points. This was done without star player Satou Sabally, who was away from the team while playing for Germany in the 2021 FIBA Women’s EuroBasket qualifiers. Sabally averaged 28 points, 9.5 rebounds and five assists in two games for Germany before returning to the Ducks.
In Sabally’s absence, Taylor Chavez stepped into the starting spot and filled in with an especially strong performance against Utah State. Chavez racked up 25 points while shooting 6-of-9 from three. That is a big development for this team. While the starting five is arguably the best in the country, it is important that the Ducks are able to find players who can come off the bench and be contributors. It is a long season, and will be even more difficult if the starting lineup consistently plays 30-plus minutes per game.
Sabally and the Ducks didn’t miss a beat upon her return. In their first game away from Matthew Knight Arena, and first real test of the regular season, the Oregon women beat No. 17 Syracuse on the road 81-64 this past Sunday. Although they started the game off slow, the Ducks erupted for 31 points in the third quarter to take a commanding 62-46 lead into the fourth, never looking back.
The schedule will continue to pick up for the Women, as they head to the Virgin Islands this Thanksgiving weekend for the Paradise Jam tournament. Among the three teams they will play is No. 8 Louisville, undoubtedly their biggest test of the non-conference season before heading into Pac-12 play (where there are four teams in the top 11). These Lady Ducks are going to have a chance all season to prove they are deserving of their number-one ranking.
On the Men’s side, the Ducks are continuing to put together a solid early resumé. The Ducks followed their victory over No. 14 Memphis with convincing wins over UT-Arlington and Houston (who reached last year’s Sweet 16). While they still have plenty of room to grow, they are showing just how good they can be. Adding six new players to a rotation can be difficult, but each player seems to be settling into his respective role.
Possibly the biggest addition to the team so far has been graduate transfer Anthony Mathis. Coming from University of New Mexico, where he made over 200 three point shots over the past two seasons, Mathis has continued that hot shooting trend at Oregon. He has shot 20-of-31 (65%) from three-point range to start the year. While that unbelievable percentage might be hard to keep up over the course of a season, his shooting ability is something that the Ducks have been missing and sorely needing in the past couple of years.
The upcoming schedule won’t be any easier, as the Men’s team will also be traveling for a Thanksgiving holiday tournament. They will be going to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis, where they will start play against No. 13 Seton Hall, with a potential second round matchup against No. 8 Gonzaga. This team will continue to face tests, and while there will be bumps along the way, the future is bright.
After seeing both these teams play early in the season, I encourage every single Ducks fan to watch both the Men and Women as much as possible. Both teams are in for special seasons, and that means we as fans are in for a fun winter (and hopefully spring). I, for one, am extremely excited for what is to come.
Coach Alex Nordstrand
Eugene, OregonTop Photo from Twitter
Chris Brouilette, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a current student at the University of Oregon from Sterling, Illinois.
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