Pac-12 Game Of The Week: Virginia At OregonPosted by Connor Pelton on December 17th, 2011
Arizona did meet Gonzaga earlier today in the Battle in Seattle, but the biggest game of the week takes place tomorrow at Matthew Knight Arena. Oregon came into the season with high expectations for their backcourt, led by highly touted freshmen Bruce Barron and Jabari Brown. However, those two left the program in late-November, leaving Garrett Sim and Johnathan Loyd to pick up the minutes and production. They have done a solid job (13 and 6.8 PPG, respectively), but the biggest boost has come from Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph. Joseph had to sit for Oregon’s first six games since he transferred mid-way through last season, but in his previous two appearances he’s averaged 15.5 PPG. Joseph has combo-guard ability and can be the difference between a top six finish in the Pac-12. At small forward it has been all about E.J. Singler. The junior is averaging 13 PPG and quite possibly has the purest stroke on the team, both behind the arc and at the charity stripe.
Virginia will bring their slow-down, methodical offense into Eugene. Mike Scott leads the Hoos in points, while sophomore guard Joe Harris is also producing great numbers. But those were the guys that were SUPPOSED to produce. One of the main reasons that Virginia is off to such a great start is because of Assane Sene and Jontel Evans. Sene, the 7’0” senior center, has got the job done on the boards by averaging 4 RPG. Evans’ best game came in their December 6th meeting with George Mason, where Jontel logged 36 minutes, 11 points, and three assists.While this is a very talented and deep team, they do turn the ball over. A lot. Averaging 12 TPG isn’t terrible, but the problem is those usually come at the most inopportune moments, including a flurry of them in their only loss against TCU. Forcing turnovers that lead to easy transition buckets will be the key to an upset for Oregon, which means more playing time for the aforementioned Joseph and Loyd. The pair are by far Oregon’s best defenders, which means they will receive more playing time from a coach that loves to sub in and out frequently.
In the end, if Oregon can force turnovers and get Virginia to play at an uncomfortable pace, the Ducks have a good shot in this one. For the most part, the Cavs have set and controlled the pace against the lesser opponents they have sprinkled their schedule with. But TCU and Drexel have both shown that if you slow the game down and force the Virginia players to take shots they don’t want, you can keep the score in the 40s or 50s. On the offensive side of the ball, Oregon has to shoot and rebound better than they have so far this season. No team has scored more than 58 points on the Cavs, and for a team that has struggled mightily on offense at times, knocking down shots when they get them will be big for the Ducks. Evans, who we mentioned earlier for being a surprise on offense, is also the team’s top defender, both on and away from the ball. He averages 1.4 SPG and will make life miserable for Sim and Brett Kingma.
So to wrap it up, the question is who will enforce their will on the opponent? Oregon can win this game if they force enough turnovers, get out in transition, and force bad shots for the Virginia offense. The Cavaliers like to wind down the shot clock on offense and pack it in on defense, and if Oregon can make this a faster game it will benefit them greatly. For Virginia, they need to do the exact opposite. The same plan has worked so far in eight of their nine games, and even in the one loss they played how they wanted to and had a chance to win it at the end.