Climbing the Pac?
Sitting at 5-1 on the season as of Tuesday afternoon, the Oregon Ducks have surprised many pundits and fans coming out of the gates.
Currently sitting fourth in the PAC-12 standings, the Ducks, who during the preseason were predicted by many (including myself) to sit in the bottom half of the division standings and hold a NIT ticket are making a push for the Big Dance.
The Ducks opened the season with five straight wins over Northern Arizona, Portland State, Vanderbilt, and Jacksonville State. Add in two exhibition games against Concorida and Southern Oklahoma State and the Ducks have successfully defended their home court, Matthew Knight Arena.
Global Sports Classic
Venturing out on the road for the first time this season, the Ducks found themselves in the championship game of the Global Sports Classic after an upset 83-79 victory over the 18th ranked UNLV on the Rebels home court, a place that visiting teams had not seen success in twenty games.
For the Ducks, the victory was extra sweet as it meant a victory over one time Oregon recruit and Canadian born Anthony Bennett (who still dropped 22 points and 10 boards). While the Ducks did fall short to the 22nd ranked Cincinnati Bearcats the following night, 77-66, they showed the PAC 12 and the rest of the NCAA that they are a legit contender for a place in the top 68 come March.
While many thought at the beginning of the season that the Ducks offense would be a one man show, freshman Damyean Dotson has stepped up to be a potent scoring alternative to senior foward, E.J. Singler, who has played solid but unspectacular in his first six games, struggling from the field as he has only converted 33% of his shots.
Along with senior forward Carlos Emory, the trio have teamed up to lead the Ducks in both minutes and points so far this season, all posting a double digit scoring average and roughly twenty five minutes of floor action per game.
First year point guard Dominic Artis has found his way as the Ducks floor general, but could find even more success if his shots were to start falling, hitting only 39% of his shots. Although he has posted double digits in four of the six games this season, his assist to turnover ratio is quite high (as often the case with freshman point guards), something that will have to change if the Ducks are to remain successful.
With just over a month left until conference play starts, the Ducks once again set out to defend their home court with a six out of seven game home stand that starts on Thursday against the University of Texas San Antonio and finishing with a meeting with the Nevada Wolfpack on New Years Eve.
Based on their results and effort to date, it would not be a stretch to imagine that Dana Altman‘s team will enter PAC 12 play against their in state rival, the Oregon State Beavers, with a 12-1 record and possible placement in the national rankings.