Oregon Basketball: How Sweet It Is!

Alex Nordstrand Editorials 18 Comments

Dana Altman has once again led his team to the Sweet 16. It seems that year after year, no matter what his roster looks like, or how much player turnover there has been, Altman finds a way to finish as one of the best teams in the country. This season is no different, with only one player remaining from their last Sweet 16 run in 2019, Will Richardson, the 2021 Ducks now finds themselves back in the thick of it with a chance to compete for a spot in the Final Four.

The route to get to this point in the NCAA Tournament was a little different this year for the Ducks. In a disappointing turn of events, Oregon’s first round opponent VCU was unable to play because of COVID protocols, giving the Ducks a first round bye. In the only game to be cancelled up to this point, it certainly was bittersweet to have the Ducks not play a game, but also advance in the Tournament.

In their Second Round game, the Ducks faced off against No. 2 seed Iowa. In their first game in 10 days, it would not have been surprising to see Oregon start off sluggish. However, the Ducks came out firing on all cylinders, scoring a season high 56 points in the first half, creating a 10-point lead and ultimately leaving little doubt as to who the better team was.

Gary Breedlove

Will Richardson will need to stay aggressive against USC

Luka Garza played as advertised. He finished with 36 points on 14/20 shooting, including three three-point field goals, while still dominating down low. This was to be expected of Garza against the undersized Oregon lineup. However, as I touched on in last week’s article, the Ducks had a game plan that accounted for Garza getting his points, but not letting the other Hawkeye players to get into a rhythm. Altman’s plan ended up working to perfection.

The next leading scorer for Iowa was Joe Wieskamp, who finished with a strong 17 points, but only came up with that total by shooting 17 shots. The Hawkeyes made just eight three-pointers as a team, three of which came from Garza, never allowing them to gain any momentum, especially once they were down double-digits in the second half.

The Ducks also had a great game offensively. Shooting nearly 56% from the field, and 44% behind the arc, Oregon had everything going. Going into the game, the Ducks knew they had a size and athleticism advantage on the wings, and they exploited that all game. Constantly looking to get to the basket, then kicking out for threes, the Ducks were able to get whatever they wanted almost all game.

Gary Breedlove

Dana Altman uses this hand signal for man to man defense

Looking ahead to their Sweet 16 matchup, things won’t be so easy.

Oregon’s next game is set to be a rematch against No. 6 seed USC, who in the lone meeting this year, beat the Ducks handily by a score of 72-58. In that game, the Trojans jumped out to a 15-0 lead and never looked back. The Ducks were shell shocked early on and were never able to fully recover. Oregon was however able to win the second half, 36-29, which should give Duck fans hope that this game won’t be as lopsided as before.

In that game, the Ducks were very much worried about PAC-12 Player of the Year Evan Mobley, and that let other players get hot early, which ended up hurting the Ducks. In this rematch, I would expect the Ducks to employ a similar strategy that they did against Iowa, where they try and make Mobley beat them on his own, and not let other role players beat them.

While Mobley is a more than capable scorer, he isn’t as consistent or aggressive in one-on-one low post opportunities as Garza. I would not next expect him to rack up 36 points like Garza did. Unfortunately for the Ducks, Mobley will undoubtedly impact the game more heavily on the defensive end, where he averages 3.2 blocks per game. This is where the game will be won or lost.

Eugene Johnson

Look for Eugene Omoruyi to have a big game against USC

In their previous meeting, the Ducks shot only 40% from the field, and had a combined 14 points from Will Richardson and Eugene Omoruyi. USC caused significant problems for Oregon with their length and athleticism on defense. While I wouldn’t expect Richardson or Omoruyi to have as poor of games this time around, the Ducks need to make those opportunities for each other count.

Last time, Oregon was very much one-on-one oriented, and took a lot of tough, contested shots without much ball movement. They ended up finishing that game with only 10 assists, and comparing that to the season high of 25 against Iowa, it is easy to see where the problem was.

Expect the Ducks to have much better ball movement, where they are driving and kicking out to shooters for three-pointers, as opposed to always driving to score. With Mobley’s shot blocking ability, the Ducks would be better served not attacking him on every play.

Gary Breedlove

LJ Figueroa will need to continue his hot shooting

As mentioned before, this was a game where Omoruyi really struggled to get going offensively. With only nine points on 3/10 shooting, he was constantly looking to draw fouls while around the basket, which caused him to miss shots and still not getting the foul calls. The idea was good, try to get Mobley in foul trouble and on the bench, but that is not where Omoruyi is best. He needs to focus on making the basket, and not worry about the foul call. He is much more efficient and effective that way.

This will undoubtedly be a hard fought game. USC is coming off a 34-point demolition of Kansas, and will be ready to ride that momentum against the Ducks. If Oregon is able to avoid another bad start, and are able to keep the Trojans role players in check, I would expect the Ducks to be right in it till the end, competing for a spot in the Elite Eight.

Lady Ducks Ready For a Fight

The Oregon Women also find themselves in the thick of the NCAA Tournament, and fighting for their spot in the Sweet 16. With their dominant 67-47 win over South Dakota in the First Round, the Ducks are now looking at a matchup with No. 3 seed Georgia today for the right to move on.

The Ducks relied on their length and defense in their win over the Coyotes. Holding South Dakota to only nine points in the first half, and zero field goals in the second quarter, the Ducks were able to build a 25 point lead at halftime. Though South Dakota did outscore the Ducks by five in the second half, significant enough damage had already been done.

The size of Oregon down low was just too much for the Coyotes to handle. With Sedona Prince and Nyara Sabally controlling the game on both the offensive and defensive end, we also got a chance to see Erin Boley finally have a breakout game with 22 points on 4/6 behind the arc. That was really good to see, and something that will be needed in the battle against Georgia.

Gary Breedlove

Sedona Prince will need to play big against Georgia

The Bulldogs, who won their first round matchup against Drexel by 14 will pose a much tougher test for the Ducks, mainly when Oregon has the ball. Georgia is a pressing team that likes to constantly put pressure on other teams guards and ball handlers. The Ducks being without their primary ball handler, Te-Hina Paopao, will need to really focus on taking care of the ball, and doing so with multiple players.

The Bulldogs are able to play so aggressively because they have one of the best shot blockers in the nation in Jenna Staiti, who averages 3.1 blocks per game. This will be a tough matchup for the Ducks, as they have struggled offensively for much of the season. They will need to use Georgia’s aggressiveness against them, looking to beat the pressure for quick points and also to get them in foul trouble.

Gary Breedlove

Maddie Scherr is going to have a big task taking care of the ball against the Bulldogs

They may also look for ways to get Staiti defending out on the perimeter, where she isn’t as comfortable. They can do this by putting her in pick-and-roll or pop situations. This could be achieved by playing a slightly smaller lineup and making her guard a three-point shooter on the outside, or by taking opportunities to score in the fast break by creating turnovers of their own.

If the Ducks are going to win this game, it is going to need be a grind-it-out, low scoring affair. They need to continue to use their length on defense, and look to be efficient and smart on offense while taking advantage of the opportunities presented. This is going to be a tough matchup, but as I’ve said before, I would never count out a Kelly Graves coached team come Tournament time.

Go Ducks!

Coach Alex Nordstrand
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo By Eugene Johnson

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Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Good News!

Lane County is being lowered in the COVID-RISK rating this Friday, and it will allow up to 300 people attend outdoor sports events. Now that will barely cover family of the team for the Spring Game, but 300 people at PK Park or “The Jane” can make some noise and honor our seniors for the fine season they are having. And in a month–who knows? Maybe Lane County will get upgraded further?

Vaccinations in Lane County are close to the national average of just 23% having at least one shot of the vaccines thus far. However only a handful of COVID patients are hospitalized locally, and NONE are in Intensive Care, and NONE are on a ventilator.

Very promising…

Notalot

Alex, you called the women’s game in advance the way it went down. It was a gritty win for the young Ducks.

Haywarduck

Interesting to guess the strategy Altman will use against sc. Even the last game, without the 0-15 start, the Ducks came out on top, lost by 14. Altman won’t be able to strategize a win with that slow of a start, but I don’t count the Ducks out.

One thing I like is few do well when they think they have the game won before it starts. The trojans just may think they are that much better, which may have them play less than their best.

The other thing that plays in our favor is the vengeance factor. Oregon lost to Colorado, Oregon State, then beat them in the next game. Oregon also hasn’t lost consecutive times to the same team. The trojans lost to Colorado, three straight times. I bet Altman watches the film of those game over and over.

They also lost their second game against Arizona after a dominating first win. This is the scenario I see happening. I just don’t see a dominating trojan team, just a very good team that thinks highly of itself, and is prone to a let down game. Mobley will get his points, but Altman will be able to disable enough of their other guys to win it.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Hayward….this is a very interesting discussion about how USC will mentally “show-up” in the game. LA schools have a tendency to over-hype themselves and yes–this could play into it.

Another component I’ve come to respect over the years is the “been-there” aspect. Teams that are new to this rare-air are prone to believe their press-clippings and become a bit full-of-themselves, and I believe our football team has been a victim of that in our gradual return to the upper echelons of college football.

Teams that have been-there before know they are the hunted, and know how to give their best effort each game. Is USC at that point yet?

And finally….I think there is a chip on the Trojan shoulder as they still believe they got hosed by the Pac-12 by not making us and UCLA play the make-up games and thus would give USC the regular season title. (In their mind) Thus they feel they have something to prove…

So they mental aspect could be the key to the game and I have no idea how they will approach it. Bottom line is that I know Our Beloved Ducks will come out as Fighting Ducks and will scrap for every point and defensive stop for the full 40 minutes.

And that is all I can ask.

As far as a chip on the shoulder Dana may have one too. While Enfield is a very good coach, his biggest recruit was 3 years ago, an unheralded AAU coach whose kids later signed on to the program.

While Enfield won coach of the year Dana, once again, won the regular season league title. He did this while, again, not predicted to do so.

Can Dana and his coaches, again, win this game while not predicted to do so? I think so and it will further the discussion on Altman being one of the truly elite coaches in college basketball. Dana does it the right way, year after year.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Good point; I forgot that Oregon was predicted to finish fourth the Pac-12 by the coaches, not win it.

Also the make-up game we wanted was USC at home. We lost on the road and never got the game against SC to make up for the loss. Indy will have to be our home game. UCLA will have to make it to the final for their make-up game.

The games we lost, the biggest comment was our feet were stuck in the mud, per Altman. I doubt this will happen against sc.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Duck Women WIN!

Oregon beats the No. 3 Seed Georgia 57-50, and I am stunned. This team limped into the tournament, and now have outperformed all expectations.

A No. 3 Seed is ranked No. 4-8 in the final polls before the NCAA Tournament….and the Ducks won? I guess Graves knows a thing or two about coaching?

The line for Sedona Prince: 22 Pts, 5 Reb, 4 Blocks, 2 Steals, 9-14 FG

Both genders in the Sweet Sixteen? Whew!

Tandaian

Go Duck women! They will face the winner of Northwestern vs Louisville. N’western is currently leading 25-10 after the 1st Qtr.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

The No. 2 Seed Louisville won…so the Ducks play them on Sunday.

Santa Rosa Duck

Nice to see the Pac 12 with four teams in the Sweet Sixteen!

The most from any other conference is two!

And this is without Arizona and Stanford….

FORGET FOOTBALL; we’re a Basketball Conference now! :)

TheRunningDuck

When the Ducks were a better team for free throw shooting a couple years ago Dana would often have them drive inside early in each half to try to get the bonus free throw shots going.He might try that to attempt to get some foul trouble going against USCs length.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Logically I agree with that, but boy–the officials let some real pounding take place underneath without calling fouls. Driving the lane is great as it makes them back off to allow for open “3s” to be shot, but I would not count on foul shots.

TheRunningDuck

That has been the long time complaint, west coast game is more picky for fouls. So the east has an advantage when they let more go in the tournament.

Jon Sousa

Thanks for the article coach. Both teams have an opportunity to move forward.

One thing I don´t understand is why the seeders put Oregon and USC in a position to meet in the Sweet 16. They are the #1 and #2 teams in the PAC. They should have been placed in different divisions. This intentionally hurts the PAC 12. The two most likely teams in any POWER 5 conference to advance to the Elite 8 are the top two teams.

The way that USC and Oregon played their last games against highly rated opponents, they should both the opportunity to play out of conference games in the Sweet 16 and both advance to the Elite 8 and the Final 4.

The PAC has 5 teams in the Dance. That means two teams have to be in the same division somewhere. It makes sense that they should be the two lowest rated teams and they should not have to play each other until the Elite 8.

I realize that the B1G had a lot of teams in. You do the same thing. The top 4 are in different divisions, the next 4 are each in different divisions with no possibility of playing anyone from the first 4 before the Divisional Finals. The lowest rated teams in the same division as the top rated teams. Looking at the B1G this year in the dance, one can say that they were obviously overrated.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Why? Because the teams that Oregon and USC beat were No. 2 and No. 3 seeds….thus Kansas and Iowa were ranked between No. 5 to No. 12 in the nation prior to the tournament. NO WAY the lowly Pac-12 teams would beat them; right?

THAT was their thinking….

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

As always–you give us real meat to chew on compared to other pre-game articles out there. I do not hold much hope for the women, and you give me more confidence for the men going into their match-up with USC this Sunday.

I was quite surprised at how well the “let-Garza-get-his” strategy worked because of how effective Oregon was with the remaining players. That will certainly be a point to watch Sunday because the Trojan guards and forwards were also killing the Jayhawks.

Great read-thanks!