Baylor at Oregon: Keys to Tonight’s Game

Posted by Andrew Murawa & Brian Goodman on November 16th, 2015

It’s been a fun opening weekend, not necessarily because there have been any great games, but just because there have been actual games. But today the season kicks into high gear as the ESPN Hoops Marathon gets underway this evening, early season exempt tournaments tip off later this week, and, if you’re anything like us, you probably won’t dig out from under the pile of college hoops that are about to smother us until the student-athletes take a breather for finals next month. Not that anybody’s complaining. Of the five or so very good games today, Ken Pomeroy’s FanMatch calls the tilt in Eugene between Baylor and Oregon the best of the night; and after watching what both of these teams did to their opponents in their openers, you can see why. In order to prepare for this battle of Top 25 teams, Big 12 microsite writer Brian Goodman and Pac-12 microsite writerAndrew Murawa list their keys to this game.

For Oregon

Five-star freshman Tyler Dorsey faces his first major challenge as the Ducks host Baylor. (Samuel Marshall/Daily Emerald)

Five-star freshman Tyler Dorsey faces his first major challenge as the Ducks host Baylor tonight. (Samuel Marshall/Daily Emerald)

  • Poise. Knight Arena is going to be electric tonight and not just because of the expected barrage of neon on both of these teams’ uniforms. The floor is going to be loaded with elite athletes ready to show off what they can do on national television. Oregon senior point guard Dylan Ennis will be watching from the bench with a foot injury, so the Ducks will have to rely on sophomore Casey Benson and freshman Tyler Dorsey to handle that position. The two youngsters will need to play under control and not let the moment get too big for them, especially early in the game. But the fact that there are no fewer than five different players on this team who can handle the rock and initiate the offense means that head coach Dana Altman has several options in the case of a disaster.

  • Tempo. The Bears were 304th in the nation in adjusted tempo last season, regularly grinding the game to a halt on both ends of the floor. This year, despite posting 97 points in the opener, Baylor looks to be running at about the same pace — playing only 68 possessions in the opener (compared with Oregon’s 72). Oregon wants to get up and down the floor so that their athletes like Dorsey, Elgin Cook, Chris Boucher and Dwayne Benjamin can get easy hoops in transition. The problem is that it is always easier to slow down a game than to speed it up. But it’s not like Baylor doesn’t have plenty of athletes of its own that can thrive in a fast game if necessary; if Oregon can bait the Bears into a few highlight-reel plays early, maybe the Ducks can drag them into an uptempo shootout.
  • Dorsey and Boucher. You might already know the returnees like Cook, Benjamin and Dillon Brooks, but it is likely to be the newcomers who will have the biggest impact on Oregon’s overall success of this season. In the opener, Dorsey looked like a seasoned veteran in contributing 20 points, five boards, five dimes and four threes, living up to his considerable hype. Likewise, Boucher, the reigning JuCo player of the year, looked spectacular with 10 points, five boards, five blocks and a couple threes in just 16 minutes of action. The level of competition for these two will be significantly higher tonight, but the confidence that they built up in game one should serve them well against the long and rangy Bears.

For Baylor

Baylor has the advantage down low, but will their new point guard be able to deliver the ball down low to Rico Gathers? (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

Baylor owns the advantage down low, but will their new point guard be able to find Rico Gathers? (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

  • Establish Rico GathersThere aren’t many teams around the country who have the big men necessary to contain Rico Gathers, and that will be the case again tonight. Not only is 6’9″ center Jordan Bell on the shelf for Oregon while recovering from foot surgery, but the guys behind him don’t offer all that much heft. Boucher is 6’10”, but on top of being inexperienced at the high-major level as a JuCo transfer, he checks in at a lean 190 pounds. Freshman Trevor Manuel is the other healthy big man in the rotation at 6’9″, but he weighs just 187 pounds compared to Gathers’ 275. Given the Ducks’ lack of depth down low and the new rules allowing for more freedom of movement, Gathers appears to have the favorable match-up in this one. Baylor would do well to look for him early in addition to relying on him for easy putbacks as the Bears normally do.
  • Limit mistakes at the point. This goes for every team in every game, of course, but it’s especially important tonight because Lester Medford is trying to assert himself as the point guard in the Bears’ rotation after starting last season as the two. Medford didn’t have any trouble in Friday night’s win over Stephen F. Austin, scoring 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting and dishing out nine assists, but tonight is going to be a very different environment. The absence of a veteran point guard on the other side (Ennis’ injury) levels out the curve to a certain extent, but with Medford still learning the position, tonight remains an important game for his development.
  • Don’t let the environment affect them. Matthew Knight Arena has become a very tough place for opponents to play, with the Ducks winning 23 of their last 25 home games against Division I opponents dating back to the middle of the 2013-14 campaign. The Bears captured both of their true road non-conference games last season, and won at Iowa State and West Virginia, but that doesn’t mean tonight’s battle in the Pacific Northwest will be easy. The travel involved in getting from Waco to Eugene is also something that the Bears are not accustomed to, and when combined with the 10:30 PM CST start and a hostile road crowd, it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see the Bears tip off a little shaky. If they can avoid that fate and take the crowd out of the game early, though, they could be on their way to a very nice early resume win.
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