“Ucks” Must Find Their “D”
In just a few short months head coach Dana Altman has transformed his team into an NCAA-bubble team in his second year at the helm.
The Oregon Ducks (22-8, 13-5 in the Pac-12) finished the conference season in third-place earning a first round bye in the Pac-12 tournament this week at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
NWSB writer Steve Lee gave his Pac-12 tournament preview and echoed my sentiment: Oregon has a shot at winning the Pac-12 title this week.
The Ducks have three elements working in their favor: Quality three-point shooting, excellent offensive rebounding, and a backwind of mometum that they can use to fly into Los Angeles.
The Ducks feature the second and third best three-point shooters in the Pac-12 in guards Devoe Joseph (46.3 percent) and Garrett Sim (46.2 percent). Given this, any lead under 20 is not insurmountable if these sharpshooters get going.
Devoe Joseph and Sim are by far the best three-point combination in the conference based on percentage.
As a team, the Ducks are first in three-pointers made per game (7.56) and are second in the Pac-12 in three-point shooting (39.7 percent), trailing only UCLA (41.3 percent).
The Ducks enter the tournament on a conference-high four-game winning streak and winners of six of their last seven games, with the speed bump coming against the California Golden Bears in Berkeley during a three-point defeat.
A 46-point beatdown over the Utah Utes in Eugene provides evidence that Oregon is arguably playing their best basketball at the right time.
Oregon ranks second (36 percent) behind Washington (37.7 percent) in offensive rebounding percentage (the proportion of total team rebounds that are on offense). Second chance opportunities are crucial in close games, which conference tournaments tend to produce.
If Oregon’s offense struggles from the field, their rebounding prowess on the glass will be vital to keep them in the game led by the offensive rebounding efforts of senior Olu Ashaolu (2.06 per game).
During most of the Pac-12 season, the Ducks have shown that they need to become more focused on the defensive end of the court.
There are a number of categories that prove what Oregon fans already know.
Altman’s squad is in the bottom-third in scoring defense (10th, 68.6). In their four-game winning streak, the Ducks have only been marginally better (66.5 per game).
In most defensive categories (scoring defense, field goal percentage against, three-point percentage against, and blocked shots) Oregon ranks in the bottom-third in the conference.
There will inevitably come a game where the Ducks will have a difficult time on offense whether in execution or missing quality shots.
The team must be able to show the ability to string together stops for extended periods at a time.
While the 94-48 against Utah in the Pac-12 finale was nice and gave the Ducks additional momentum, one must bear in mind that the Utes finished 3-15 in conference play this year.
Altman and the Ducks will open their Pac-12 run at the tournament Thursday at 8:30 p.m. Oregon will face the winner of a first round matchup between Colorado and Utah.