Oregon Basketball’s March Into Madness: Win NOW

Alex Nordstrand Editorials

The Oregon Women’s basketball team is figuratively (and literally) limping into the PAC-12 Conference Tournament. With a 2-4 record in their last six games, and Te-Hina PaoPao in a walking boot, the Lady Ducks are in search of some positive momentum. Can they find it in Las Vegas at the PAC-12 Tournament?

Heading into postseason play, the Ducks are most likely looking at a second straight matchup against the in-state rival Beavers. A team that just beat the Ducks 88-77 this past Sunday in a game that was mostly controlled by Oregon St. At this point, the Ducks are in no danger of missing the NCAA Tournament. However, a second consecutive loss to the Beavers would send the Ducks into the Big Dance with more questions than answers.

This team is one that it seems has slightly underachieved this season. Obviously the loss of three of the top eight WNBA draft picks is a tough act to follow, but it seemed that coach Kelly Graves would be able to reload rather than have to rebuild his entire roster. After a promising start to the season, the Ducks ran into the buzzsaw that is the top of the PAC-12 Conference, going a combined 0-6 against the top three teams in the conference, and 1-1 against the fifth place Beavers.

Sydney Parrish is a spark plug off the bench for the Ducks

However, the Ducks are 12-0 against all other competition this season. It seems that this group is somewhere stuck in the middle. They clearly have more talent than middling competition, and can use their natural ability to beat those teams. But, they unfortunately currently lack the experience and cohesion to get over the hump and finally conquer the teams above them.

At this point, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Ducks lose to the Beavers tomorrow, then lose in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. But it also wouldn’t surprise me to see the Ducks get hot, win a couple games in the PAC-12 Tournament, then go on to make another Elite Eight run. They are just so hard to predict, especially with the injury of PaoPao and the uncertainty of her availability.

Even with their recent uneven play, the Ducks have a shot to pick up a couple key wins before entering the NCAA Tournament. Their next game, most likely against Oregon St., is a team they have defeated earlier in the season. They will need to tighten up their defense and keep the Beavers off the three point line, but it remains a winnable game.

Jaz Shelley has struggled a bit this season, but has the ability shoot out of her slump

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Their Quarterfinal matchup would then most likely be against Stanford. Even though the Ducks have lost both games against the Cardinal this season, they have remained competitive and come down to the wire. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility the Ducks can pull this one out if they are able to play a full 40 minutes and finish the game strong.

Even just winning one or both of those games would go a long way in building confidence for this young team heading into the NCAA Tournament. Once in the Tournament, momentum and confidence can go a long way in advancing to the later rounds, and the Ducks have the talent to do it.

Chris Duarte has been playing like the PAC-12 Player of the Year

On the Men’s side of things, Dana Altman once again has his Ducks playing their best basketball at the right time. Winners of eight of their last nine games, the Ducks find themselves once again in control of their own destiny in the PAC-12. Heading into the biggest game of their season against UCLA tonight, expect the Ducks to be ready to play, and play well.

One key to watch out for in this game is the play of Will Richardson. Against Arizona on Monday, we finally saw Richardson be aggressive offensively, especially from the three point line where he was 3-7 from behind the arc. If he stays aggressive and continues to look for his outside shot, that will greatly help the Ducks offensively. He is a key piece to everything the Ducks want to do.

As we wind down to the end of a very crazy basketball season for both the Men’s and Women’s teams, we head into a crucial weekend for both programs. Both looking to wither gain or continue momentum heading into postseason play. It’s time to win now with a lot of important basketball this week, and a great time to be a fan of Our Beloved Ducks.

Go Ducks!

Coach Alex Nordstrand
Eugene, Oregon
Photo By Gary Breedlove

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