Oregon Thrives on Offense, Dumps Illinois Despite Defensive Rebounding Struggles

Posted by Kenny Ocker on December 15th, 2013

The Oregon Ducks have gotten off to their undefeated start in 2013-14 primarily on the strength of their staggeringly efficient offense. The Ducks ranked third in the nation in effective field goal percentage and were seventh in the nation in free throw rate before Saturday night’s game against Illinois at the former Rose Garden in Portland.

Oregon Stayed Unbeaten on Saturday Night in Portland

Oregon Stayed Unbeaten on Saturday Night in Portland

Aspects of Oregon’s defense are also strong, including a top-50 steal rate and a top-75 block rate. But one thing stands out in the Ducks’ statistical profile: a lack of proficiency on the defensive glass. Despite only playing one top-25 offensive rebounding team this season (San Francisco), Oregon ranks a pedestrian 235th in defensive rebounding rate. Against the Illini, that vulnerability showed up early – six offensive rebounds surrendered in the first half, which ended tied at 32 – and late, when they got a rebound putback from Joseph Bertrand to close the game within three points with less than a minute to go. But Oregon’s scoring was able to again cover for its defensive rebounding deficiency in a 71-64 win.

Oregon (9-0) certainly misses graduated senior transfer Arsalan Kazemi, who led the nation in defensive rebounding rate in 2012-13, but another senior transfer is attempting to fill that void. Mike Moser – a Portland native who previously played at both UCLA and UNLV – has led the Ducks on the defensive glass all season, including a team-high eight Saturday night, which also came with 14 points, tied for the team lead with fellow senior transfer Joseph Young. The performance of the 6’8” power forward Saturday is made more impressive when considering that Illinois’ starting frontcourt of Nnanna Egwu, Jon Ekey and Joseph Bertrand each gather eight percent or more of available offensive rebounds, and the Illini ranked 36th nationally in offensive rebound rate before the game.

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Pac-12 M5: 11.07.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 7th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. Big news out of Eugene broke late Tuesday when Campus Insiders reported that two Oregon starters, Dominic Artis and Ben Carter, were suspended by the NCAA for selling team shoes provided to them by the university. The pair could miss anywhere from nine to 12 games for the self-reported violation, but expect the final decision to be nine since former Duck Willie Moore (who was also caught selling his custom Nike shoes along with former players Carlos Emory and Fred Richardson), was benched for Miami’s (OH) first nine games by the NCAA last night. Looking ahead, that means the point guard and center will be out for notable neutral site games against Georgetown and Illinois, a home meeting with San Francisco, and a road game at Mississippi. Oregon learned of the violation in early October, at which time both it and the NCAA began investigating. Both players will have to pay back the money made from selling the shoes to a charity, with a payment plan set up to ease the process. Senior Johnathan Loyd will take over at the one while Artis is out, and while you never want to lose a player of his caliber, Loyd gained valuable experience last winter when Artis missed significant time with a foot injury. Carter’s absence could be much more problematic as head coach Dana Altman loses a capable scorer who balances out the team on the offensive end of the floor.
  2. Things didn’t go much better down the road in Corvallis on Tuesday night either. Oregon State trailed NAIA opponent Concordia by eight with 16 minutes remaining before the Beavers finally began to rebound and convert offensively. Oregon State ended up pulling ahead to win the game, 104-94, but neither team left Gill Coliseum feeling great after a sloppy, foul-filled final five and a half minutes that uglied up the game.
  3. The biggest surprise in Arizona‘s lone exhibition game, an 84-52 victory over Augustana, was sophomore Gabe York‘s 14-point outburst. York only played 5.8 MPG during his freshman season, so a year spent observing and gaining weight has given Sean Miller another viable option in the backcourt. York will see most of his action when the Cats go big, which will open up the perimeter for him to find shots. He is now a confident and reliable shooter who could play big minutes for the Cats late in games. Arizona enters the season ranked sixth in the AP and fifth in the USA Today polls. It opens the season Friday against Cal Poly at the McKale Center.
  4. USC unveiled its two new basketball mascots yesterday, and they are, um, interesting. Tommy, the new men’s mascot, appears to be an updated version of a Trojan from biblical times. And Traveler, the women’s version, looks like a fictitious horse-like animal created by PBS. We’ll see how Trojan fans react at the team’s home opener next week, but it doesn’t sound like the reaction will be great.
  5. Last week Drew dominated our weekly pick’em contest, sweeping the four games against my 2-2 record. That puts me at 54-14 on the season, with Drew one game back at a 53-15 clip. This week we come to you on a Thursday morning since the national game of the week will be played tonight on the Farm, pitting undefeated and third-ranked Oregon against a one-loss Stanford team that still has a shot at the North division title. Elsewhere around the league, UCLA visits Arizona in a pivotal South division game, and Arizona State travels to Utah. Our picks are below, with a score provided for Oregon-Stanford.
    Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
    Oregon at Stanford Oregon 41, Stanford 38 Oregon 38, Stanford 20
    USC at California USC USC
    Arizona State at Utah Arizona State Utah
    Colorado at Washington Washington Washington
    UCLA at Arizona Arizona UCLA
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Dana Altman and the Rise of Oregon Basketball

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 8th, 2013

Four short years ago, the Oregon basketball program was nearly left for dead. Of the Ducks’ 12 losses to Pac-10 opponents, 11 of those came by double figures. There were also losses to teams like Portland and Montana, and while McArthur Court was still a classic, its age was starting to show in a bad way. In January of the 2009-10 season, the Oregon football team went to its first Rose Bowl in 14 years, and it felt like the hoops team was getting left behind in all of the athletic excitement.

Enter Dana Altman the very next season. Altman was hired after a lengthy search, one that reportedly had many many high profile targets turn down the job. The former Creighton head man made a splash immediately, sweeping the Civil War series with Oregon State, upsetting a top 20 Washington team, and making it to the semifinals of the Pac-10 Tournament. They didn’t stop there, though, and after pulling an invitation to the CBI to close the season, the Ducks beat Altman’s former team in the best of three championship series in thrilling fashion. Also, halfway through the year, Oregon unveiled its state of the art replacement to The Pit, the Matthew Knight Arena. While drawing criticism from most of the nation for its oddly-drawn floor art, Oregon fans, and more importantly recruits, were drawn to it.

Oregon's NBA-Like Arena Has Helped The Resurgence Of The Hoops Program (credit: Brian Feulner)

Oregon’s NBA-Like Arena Has Helped The Resurgence Of The Hoops Program (credit: Brian Feulner)

Over the last two seasons, Oregon has continued to gain momentum. It won 24 games in 2011-12, including road contests at Nebraska, Arizona, and Oregon State. That season concluded with a trip to the NIT, and the Ducks were bounced in an entertaining rivalry game at Washington in the quarterfinals. Behind key hustle players like E.J. Singler, Carlos Emory, and Arsalan Kazemi, Oregon continued its rise up the postseason ladder in the last year’s campaign. Compiling two streaks of five straight wins and one of eight consecutive victories, Altman’s squad put it all together in March, winning the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas and pulling back-to-back upsets as a #12 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The run ended against top overall seed and eventual national champion Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen.

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Oregon Post-Mortem

Posted by Connor Pelton on April 23rd, 2013

Now that we are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Next on our list: Oregon.

What Went Right

Considering most Oregon fans hadn’t even heard of former Rice standout Arsalan Kazemi until less than a month before Midnight Madness, the last-minute addition of the Iranian Sensation did wonders for the Ducks’ play in 2012-13. The team clicked well with Kazemi on board as he added the final piece to an almost-complete puzzle. His hustle and ability to grab seemingly every loose ball on the court made him a quick fan favorite.

The Addition Of Arsalan Kazemi Was The Final Piece To Dana Altman's Puzzle In 2012-13 (credit: US Presswire)

The Addition Of Arsalan Kazemi Was The Final Piece To Dana Altman’s Puzzle In 2012-13 (credit: US Presswire)

What Went Wrong

Unspecified left foot injuries. Star point guard Dominic Artis went down with one before Oregon’s January 26 game against Washington, transforming thet Ducks from a 17-2 team to one struggling to find an identity upon his return on the final day of February. When all was said and done, however, Oregon ended up advancing to the Sweet Sixteen regardless of its lower seed, a product of the development of the team during his injury. Still, it would have been interesting to see how the Ducks performed in the dance if Artis had played all year long and Oregon was given a higher seed.

MVP

For what Kazemi lacked in clutch scoring, senior forward E.J. Singler made up for it. He was pivotal down the stretch in overtime at Washington State, leading the Ducks with 25 points, and his 14-point performance to hand Arizona its first loss of the season was gritty and much-needed.

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How Can Oregon Stay Competitive With Louisville?

Posted by AMurawa on March 28th, 2013

When Oregon takes the floor Friday evening against Louisville, it will do so as a heavy underdog to the top seed. Las Vegas sees the Ducks as 10-point underdogs, while Ken Pomeroy says the Cardinals are 11 points better. But after winning the Pac-12 Tournament and being “rewarded” by the Selection Committee with a 12-seed, the Ducks are used to being counted out. They still think they can win, however, and with head coach Dana Altman pulling the strings, it’s foolish to give up on them, but without question they have their work cut out to knock off the Cardinals.

Dana Altman And The Ducks Have Pulled Off Two Upsets, But A Big Challenge Still Awaits

Dana Altman And The Ducks Have Pulled Off Two Upsets, But A Big Challenge Still Awaits

Priority number one for the Ducks is to take better care of the ball than they did last week. In their upset wins over Oklahoma State and Saint Louis, they did a lot of things really well, but limiting turnovers was not one of them. They turned it over 18 times in each outing, with senior E.J. Singler leading the way with a total of 12. If they are similarly careless against Louisville, those 18 turnovers are liable to turn into 24. And those 24 turnovers could very easily turn into 40 points. And if that happens, even if Louisville struggles shooting the ball — a reasonable occurrence — the Cardinals can still come out of the game with a win by taking advantage of all those Oregon turnovers to earn easy baskets.

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RTC’s 2013 Pac-12 Tournament Preview

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 13th, 2013

The 2013 Pac-12 Championship is upon us. If you want to know who the favorites, dark-horses  and long-shots are, or are just looking for a possible team to make a run all the way from Las Vegas to the Final Four, here is your guide.

bracket

While the Pac-12 may not be the best conference in the nation, this is going to be one of the most competitive conference tournaments of Championship Week. Any of the top nine seeds are capable of winning it, and every team playing in the first round of the tournament needs at least one win to feel safe on Selection Sunday. Outside of that top five, every team will be playing for their NCAA lives, which could make the first day of the tournament surprisingly entertaining. To make a run through a conference tournament, especially when you need to win four games in four days, you need three or more really solid players. UCLA has Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams, Travis Wear, and Kyle Anderson; Oregon has E.J. Singler, Carlos Emory, and Damyean Dotson; and Colorado has Spencer Dinwiddie, Askia Booker, Andre Roberson, and Josh Scott. Those groups of players can lead their teams through the tournament, but the rest of the field behind them has only one or two solid players they can count on.

Two teams that aren’t currently locked into the field of 68 have a possibility of getting at-large bids through their play this week. Colorado may be in regardless, but they can lock up an at-large this afternoon with a win against Oregon State. Arizona State is about the seventh or eighth team out of the tournament at this point, so anything short of three wins in Vegas will keep the Sun Devils in the NIT. They also need help from the contenders in front of them, meaning ASU fans should be rooting for quick exits by the likes of Iowa, Southern Miss, and Mississippi.

Can Jahii Carson Lead Arizona State To The NCAA Tournament (credit: Arizona State)?

Can Jahii Carson Lead Arizona State To The NCAA Tournament (credit: Arizona State)?

Favorite: UCLA. Carrying the momentum off a regular season conference title, the Bruins come in as slight favorites for the tournament. They’ll likely face Arizona in the semifinals, a team they have more or less dominated in their two previous meetings. Any one of the top four seeds could win this thing (even the top five), but UCLA has the star power to carry them all the way through.

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Celebrating The Oregon Seniors

Posted by Connor Pelton on February 28th, 2013

On a night when the biggest story will be the return of an injured freshman, arguably the best group of seniors in the league will play their final home game at Matthew Knight Arena tonight. From a four year, in-state star to a trio of junior or senior transfers, all four graduating Ducks have had major impacts at separate points throughout the season. We break them down below.

Arsalan Kazemi and Tony Woods Have Dominated The Inside In 2012-13 (credit: Tess Freeman)

Arsalan Kazemi and Tony Woods Have Dominated The Inside In 2012-13 (credit: Tess Freeman)

Arsalan Kazemi has been Oregon’s difference-maker this year, bringing the Ducks from what most thought would be a bubble team at the beginning of the season to a team vying for the conference crown. The native Iranian spent his first three years at Rice, and if he had stayed put in Houston, he most likely would be named the C-USA Player of the Year. Kazemi is the definition of a hustle player, a constant ball-diving type who leads the team in rebounds and steals. He will be sorely missed by Oregon fans, but his story is far from over, as Kazemi is the type of player that can lead a team through the first week of the NCAA Tournament and beyond.

Tony Woods and Carlos Emory transferred to Eugene two years ago, and have been providing highlight-reel blocks and dunks since their arrival. Woods’ length in the post makes him a viable threat against opposing defenses, but it’s on his defensive end of the court where he makes a difference for the Ducks. Woods is the team co-leader in blocks per game, and his 6’11″ frame clogs up the paint with great efficiency. Emory is by far the more athletic of the interior duo, and his versatility allows him to play at the three, four, or five, depending on where he is most needed.

Finally we come to the dean of the Oregon seniors, E.J. Singler. Singler has been a crucial part of Oregon’s six- or seven-man rotation in all four of his seasons with the Ducks, and he has averaged double figures in the scoring column in all but his freshman year. The small forward was Oregon’s Kazemi before Arsalan arrived at Oregon, so he has taken a bit of a back seat in terms of production this season. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been crucial to Oregon’s success at times; his 25 points in Oregon’s 79-77 win at Washington State led the Ducks to a grind-it-out, overtime win on the Palouse; and earlier in the season he poured in 22 as the Ducks demolished Vanderbilt. Singler has played through injuries his entire career and will go down as one of the best four-year players in Oregon history.

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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VIII: Solid Students

Posted by AMurawa on February 27th, 2013

We’ve bragged about our pet pupils yesterday, and we’ll get to the folks in detention later, but for now, here’s the middle of the Pac from last week’s performances.

Washington – B

After getting run off the court on Wednesday night against Arizona, the Huskies rebounded nicely with a strong performance in knocking off Arizona State on Saturday. In recent weeks it has been as simple as equating made shots with wins for the Huskies. In seven games in February they’ve shot a better than 50% eFG three times and won all of those games. Of course, four times they’ve shot lower than 50% and lost all four of those.

Focus on: Scott Suggs. With C.J. Wilcox clearly hurting, the Huskies desperately needed Suggs – their only other proven scorer – to break out of his slump. And, against the Sun Devils, after scoring just four points in four of his previous five games, Suggs did just that. He provided some offensive punch right out of the gate on Saturday night, either scoring or assisting on 12 of the Huskies  first 18 points. With just three games remaining in the regular season of his final collegiate season, you can bet both he and Lorenzo Romar hope he can keep up that type of performance the rest of the way.

Looking ahead: The Huskies host Washington State on Sunday night as the Evergreen State gets to say goodbye to five really good seniors between the two squads in their final Apple Cup (basketball edition) game.

Once Branded A Glue Guy, Josh Huestis' Recent Streak Proves He's An All-Around Player (Ben Margot, AP)

Once Branded A Glue Guy, Josh Huestis’ Recent Streak Proves He’s An All-Around Player (Ben Margot, AP)

Stanford – B-

The Cardinal went on the road and got a split for the week; that’s a good thing, right? It certainly is, but for Johnny Dawkins and company to move themselves into range for an at-large bid, they really needed to get a win Saturday at Oregon. Unfortunately for them, they shot the ball poorly, turned it over far too much and even got beat on the boards as the Ducks backed Stanford into a corner, where they need to win the Pac-12 Tournament lest they be relegated in trying to defend their NIT title.

Focus on: Josh Huestis. He has previously shown the ability to score both inside and out, but with talented scoring guards and emerging star Dwight Powell on the same roster, the expectation was that Huestis was locked into a “glue guy” role. His occasional outbursts of offense, an expectation that was being met through most of January, the junior from Great Falls regularly grabbed more rebounds than he scored points. But, over the last month, Huestis has undergone an offensive renaissance, scoring in double figures in nine straight games, registering seven double-doubles along the way, and averaging 14.6 points and 10.8 rebounds per game over that stretch. Somewhat unbelievably, Huestis is a legitimate first-team all-conference contender.

Looking ahead: The Cardinal host Colorado and Utah this week. There really isn’t a scenario whereby they earn an at-large bid to the NCAAs, so while neither of these games are must wins, they must build confidence and coherence if they hope to threaten to win the title in Vegas.

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Humbled: Against Stanford, Oregon’s Problems Come Home To Roost

Posted by mlemaire on January 31st, 2013

Mike Lemaire is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game between Stanford and Oregon in Palo Alto. 

Those who had watched Oregon eke their way to a 7-0 start in Pac-12 play knew that eventually the team’s offensive struggles and turnover issues would bite them, but no one could have predicted the Ducks’ comeuppance would be so vicious. Even Oregon had to know as it rose to No. 10 in the national polls that their gaudy record was built on a shaky foundation that would struggle to create offense without injured dynamic freshman point guard Dominic Artis. But even without Artis, getting thrashed by Stanford to the tune of 76-52 proves that the young Ducks still have a long way to go if they want to capture a Pac-12 title.

Since conference play began, Dana Altman’s team has made a habit of starting slow before picking up the intensity as the game went on and ultimately finding a way to win. And as if on cue last night, the Ducks turned the ball over four times in the first five minutes and missed a handful of early open jumpers. Oregon tried to turn up the intensity after trailing by double-figures at halftime, but without Artis to create offense in the half-court and facing a veteran team hungry for a big win, things quickly got worse instead of better.

Dominic Artis, Oregon

The importance of Dominic Artis to the Ducks as never more apparent than it was last night.

The Cardinal deserve credit too. Led by guards Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright,  Stanford canned nearly 60 percent of its three-pointers (8-of-14) and harassed Oregon’s perimeter players into a 4-of-16 effort from behind the three-point arc. But Oregon didn’t exactly make Stanford beat them. Offensively they were again plagued by turnovers and poor shooting, and the team’s lackluster defensive effort in the first half — especially on close-outs — allowed Stanford to open up a big lead they would not relinquish. “It’s the first time we’ve fallen flat on our face this year,” Altman said. “I am not going to lie. I am very disappointed. But a lot of that has to do with Stanford. They just kicked us.”

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Oregon Basketball and The Season of New: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Posted by Rockne Roll on January 26th, 2013

Welcome to Oregon Basketball and The Season of New, a weekly Pac-12 microsite column from Rockne Roll (@raroll). His column will focus on the various issues facing college basketball through the prism of the Oregon Ducks, a program ostensibly on the rise with top-notch facilities and coaching, but still subject to many of the same problems suffered by many of the other high-major programs around the country.

Needless to say, it’s been a topsy-turvy week in college hoops. Louisville was crowned the top team in the country after all three remaining undefeated teams lost in the same weekend, only to be promptly unseated by Syracuse in a Big East thriller that propelled Michael Carter-Williams further into the national spotlight. Duke retook the crown, only to suffer an unprecedented 27-point beatdown at the hands of Miami. Heading into Saturday night, the next number one is anything but certain, with Michigan still in the mix and Kansas seemingly ready to take the throne for the first time this season.

E.J. Singler was all over the court in the Ducks comeback win over Washington State, including notching this block in the first half. (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll)

E.J. Singler was all over the court in the Ducks comeback win over Washington State, including notching this block in the first half. (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll)

The excitement has continued deep into the undercard throughout the last week. Michigan State’s upset of Ohio State makes the Big Ten race that much more interesting (not that it needed any help), and Wichita State’s win over Creighton turned the Missouri Valley from the Jays’ show to a horse race in one fell swoop. None of these, however, can top the show put on in Hinkle Fieldhouse last Saturday, a prime time game between barely-mid-major programs with the same mascot and the same aspirations come March.

When two of the best squads in the country meet in one of the most historic sports venues in any league of any sport, there are bound to be fireworks, but this contest was at “ESPN Classic” levels even before it ended. A Rotnei Clarke-less Bulldogs squad kept it tooth and nail with the kings of the West Coast Conference, Gonzaga, for 39 minutes and 57 seconds until a traveling call seemed to seal this battle of the Bulldogs. Then in came the Hinkle Magic and a kid named Roosevelt Jones grabbed the Zags’ inbounds pass, dribbled twice and launched a floater that no one heard hit the ground after swishing through the net, it’s bounce drowned out as a sea of navy and white rushed the old court to celebrate a tremendous win.

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Night Line, Weekend Edition: Oregon Hard Pressed To Avoid National Radar Now

Posted by BHayes on January 20th, 2013

nightline2

Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Well, well, well — how about those Oregon Ducks? Dana Altman and company flew under the radar for a good long while, but they can now rest assured that they will be the ones wearing the target from here on out. Blame an East-Coast bias, recent years of mediocrity, or the resurgence of fellow Pac-12 powers Arizona and UCLA if you want, but for one reason or another, this team has been overlooked for the past three months. A win over previously unbeaten Arizona on January 10turned some heads, but yesterday’s road win at red-hot UCLA should have everyone’s, and I mean everyone’s, attention. This may be news to much of the college basketball world, but the Oregon Ducks are all alone at the top of the Pac-12, and (gasp!) should now be considered favorites to win the league.

Dana Altman Has The Ducks Pointed In The Right Direction

Dana Altman Has The Ducks Pointed In The Right Direction

We know what you have done lately Oregon (knock off both conference favorites in the span of 10 days), but why have we not heard about you before? College basketball fans around the country are asking the question, and the Ducks’ body of work over the first two months of the season has no answer for you. The early schedule was relatively weak, but Oregon went 11-2 in the non-conference, which included a dazzling scalp of UNLV in Vegas. Their only losses were to Cincinnati on a neutral court (no shame there) and in triple-OT at UTEP (not a good loss but far from crippling). The rest of the slate featured too many teams with astronomically high RPIs (computer numbers would be much better if the wins had come over moderately bad teams and not the true cellar of Division I), but Oregon did win each of those 10 games by double-digits.

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Oregon Basketball and the Season of New: The Big Win

Posted by Rockne Roll on January 17th, 2013

Welcome to Oregon Basketball and The Season of New, a weekly Pac-12 microsite column from Rockne Roll (@raroll). His column will focus on the various issues facing college basketball through the prism of the Oregon Ducks, a program ostensibly on the rise with top-notch facilities and coaching, but still subject to many of the same problems suffered by many of the other high-major programs around the country.

There are games that every player remembers — their highest-scoring game, their last home contest, rivalry games, conference championships, and bad losses. But not every player gets the chance to be part of a big upset win in front of the home fans on national TV. These games are but a blip on the larger college basketball radar, sometimes netting headlines for a day or so, but for the players, the fans, the building and team staffs and everyone else who was there, it is often the memory of a lifetime.

Carlos Emory drinks in the atmosphere at Matthew Knight Arena in the closing moments of the Duck's win over Arizona. (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll

Carlos Emory drinks in the atmosphere in the closing moments of the Ducks’ win over Arizona. (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll)

By about halfway through the non-conference season, four power conference teams had gone unscathed through the early season: Arizona, Duke, Indiana, and Michigan. No team has gone undefeated through the regular season since 1976, when Indiana finished the season with a 32-0 record and a national championship, but there’s always hope that another team can do the job, that the stars will align just right. That squad was not Indiana again, as they lost to Butler in overtime near the trail end of the non-conference season. The win put the Bulldogs back into the national spotlight and shattered many predictions that Indiana was a juggernaut. It also elevated the other three unbeaten schools to elite status, the top of the college basketball heap (and polls).

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