Oregon Basketball and The Season of New: Anatomy of a Rivalry

Posted by Rockne Roll on January 10th, 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.

Not all conference games are created equal, particularly in a conference where there’s a wide separation between best and worst. And while the Oregon Ducks have been saying that they prepare for every game with the same degree of intensity and focus, one can’t help but think that there might have been a little something extra that went into the preparation for Sunday’s conference opener against a team the Ducks have played 337 times before this one. Because what better way for Oregon to start conference play than the longest running rivalry in college basketball; the Civil War against the Beavers of Oregon State.

Team leaders E.J. Singler (left) and Roberto Nelson tried to keep the Civil War "civil." (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll)

Team leaders E.J. Singler (left) and Roberto Nelson tried to keep the Civil War “civil.” (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll)

The Civil War has all the makings of a classic rivalry: two big schools with big athletic programs in the same conference separated by 40 or so miles of Interstate 5 and a million miles in terms of campus and community culture. Between Corvallis, the small, rural town with its agricultural college turned engineering and forestry nexus, and Eugene, the famed hippie and beatnick mecca with its liberal arts (emphasis on the liberal) focus that is sometimes referred to as UC Eugene, the whole state takes sides based on location, family history, and alumni status.

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Oregon Basketball and The Season of New: Seniors that Surprise

Posted by Rockne Roll on December 26th, 2012

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. 

Christmas has come and probably gone by the time you read this, so instead of focusing on “the spirit of the season” and joy and all that, it’s time to discuss the real reason that Christmas is such a popular holiday: gifts. Everyone likes receiving gifts, and college basketball coaches are no exception. Quite a few coaches have been reveling in the gifts they received from Recruiting Claus way back in the offseason as their freshman prospects have blossomed into powerhouse college players. But gifts come in all shapes, sizes and amounts of remaining eligibility for coaches. As the season has unfolded, a number of seniors that were previously talented but not quite superstar players have emerged as unexpected studs that have propelled their teams to unexpected success.

Miles Plumlee Has Been a Gift to Duke Fans (AP Photo)

The most prominent example of this phenomenon nationally has been Mason Plumlee.  Notching just over 11 points and nine boards in last year’s campaign, the middle of the Plumlee brothers was expected to headline the Blue Devil’s frontcourt this year, but not to factor into the hunt for national honors nor was Duke seen as a serious national title contender. How times change: Plumlee now averages nearly 20 points per contest and is the leading scorer and rebounder for the best team in the country. “Mason Plumlee’s improvement in a year’s time is extraordinary,” Elon coach Matt Matheny told reporters after Plumlee scored 21 and notched 15 boards in Duke’s 76-54 win over the Phoenix at Cameron Indoor Stadium. “He has done a tremendously good job of developing into a really, really good college player.” “Really good” is an understatement here, as Plumlee has gone from potential All-American to the short list for the Naismith Award.

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Oregon Basketball and The Season of New: Breaking The Winter Blahs

Posted by Rockne Roll on December 15th, 2012

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.

December is a strange time of year in the world of college sports. There are no classes for student-athletes and, at least for the Oregon Ducks, only a few games in the space of a month leading up to the start of conference play. With the hustle and bustle of regular season tournaments ended, now is the time that teams have to solidify their rotations, offensive strategies and other nuances of the game leading up to conference season. Oregon will have some help in this regard. Between their Global Sports Classic finale (their only loss yet) and the beginning of the Pac-12 calendar, the Ducks play all but one of their games at home, and only two against teams that had a winning record last year. But even though the non-conference schedule for them and most high-major schools is now as tender as a fine Christmas roast, that doesn’t mean this time of year is without obstacles. Even in the course of winning games, there are gaping flaws to be unveiled and problems to encounter that make this time of year nerve-wracking.

E.J. Singler leaps in for a put-back off of Damyean Dotson's missed three-pointer. (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll)

E.J. Singler leaps in for a put-back off of Damyean Dotson’s missed three-pointer. (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll)

Just ask the Michigan State Spartans. They needed a 22-9 run early in the second half to put away Loyola (IL) 73-61 on December 8. “ Tough game,” explained Spartans coach Tom Izzo. “We didn’t play great, but we didn’t play bad. We had some poor stretches and a couple of really foolish turnovers.” This was only the most recent of their troubles, they came very close to dumping a home contest to a very underwhelming Idaho State squad, eventually squeaking out with a 74-70 win on November 20. Kentucky has had some worse problems. After losing to Notre Dame, the Wildcats went into national ranking freefall after a subsequent 64-55 loss to Baylor. “I don’t know what you can say,” head coach John Calipari said in the press conference afterward. “The greatest thing, we had a chance to win the game. But we are still trying to teach them how to finish games, and they don’t know.” Calipari took the opportunity to discuss some of his team’s other near-misses earlier in the season. “We also could have lost to Maryland, earlier this season. We also could have lost to Morehead. Morehead had us on the ropes. What I need our players to understand is, that we are not a very good team right now and we are not individually very good.” Their woes continued in their game against Portland, which they won by a 74-46 final score that belied the fact that the game was tied nine minutes in and the Pilots stayed within 10 for much of the second half until Kentucky finally put them away.

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Oregon Basketball and The Season of New: Giving Thanks and Getting Transfers

Posted by Rockne Roll on November 27th, 2012

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.

Thanksgiving is a time to take a step back from the grind and routine of life and appreciate that which we often take for granted. Family, friends, employment, even simple things like food and shelter are worth thinking of on days like this in times like these, not to mention the opportunity we get to experience and chronicle something as exciting and beautiful as college basketball. In wet and soggy Eugene, Oregon, the Ducks have someone and something to be thankful for, too, as they wind through their early non-conference schedule. Arsalan Kazemi, who transferred from Rice just before the start of the season, put on an Oregon uniform for the first time just a day after his waiver request was approved by the NCAA.

Arsalan Kazemi starts off his second game as a Duck with a dunk against Jacksonville State. (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll)

Once a rarity, the upper-class transfer has become as big of a part of the college basketball landscape as the one-and-done. According to CBS Sports, more than 400 Division I basketball players have transferred schools this year, and ESPN cites an NCAA report saying that 40 percent of all college freshman basketball players will eventually change schools.  Some of these players are taking advantage of the graduate transfer rule, some are exiting Division I to one of the lower tiers of college hoops, and some are either planning to sit out a year or hoping to receive the gift of a hardship waiver from the NCAA, relieving them and their new teams from the burden of an academic year in residence.

The process by which the NCAA approves and denies these requests is a mystery even to those who follow college ball religiously. Earlier this month, the NCAA published new guidelines on its granting of waivers for players who are changing schools to move closer to ailing family members, clearing up some nagging issues but making some language even more confusing. Currently, ESPN reports that about half of the waiver requests made in the last five years have been approved, a figure that is expected to rise under the new regulations.

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Oregon Basketball and the Season of New: A Cold Start

Posted by Rockne Roll on November 16th, 2012

The weather in Oregon can do strange things. In the week leading up to the Ducks’ home opener against Northern Arizona, the weather shifted from cool and rainy to downright cold, and it was frequently the topic of conversation across the western half of the state. In the span of a day, high temperatures dropped from the mid-50s to the low 40s in what would turn out to be a bit of an omen for the Ducks as they faced Northern Arizona Saturday night.

Willie Moore loses control of his dribble as the Ducks take on Northern Arizona in their home opener.

The weather has been weird throughout the country, with two scheduled carrier games amounting to one half of actual basketball between them (Ohio State vs. Marquette was cancelled before its scheduled tip aboard USS Yorktown, while Florida vs. Georgetown was cancelled just before the start of the second half due to unmanageable condensation aboard USS Bataan), not to mention Hurricane Sandy. But many of the top teams in the country seemed to open up their seasons with some cold moments, even if it was not reflected in the thermometer.

It took a late first half rally and a close second half for No. 15 Missouri to beat Southern Illinois–Edwardsville by 14. Yale dominated the first half of their match against Sacred Heart, taking a 44-28 lead to the break, but went on to lose 85-82 after the Pioneers mounted a monumental comeback. And Arizona struggled to put away Charleston Southern until late, eventually winning 82-73. In early-season games like these, the scene is frequently set the same way: A team playing its home opener against a team it underestimates doesn’t play as hard as they might have against a big-name team. They’ll either come out soft, or build a lead and leave it to take care of itself, slacking off late and not just leaving the door open to a comeback, but propping it wide with a doorstop and hanging a welcome sign over it. On the other side of the coin, opponents come into the big-time arenas ready to go, eager to show their stuff and pushing every possible advantage.

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ATB: Conference Tourneys Heat Up, Oregon Impresses, and Another FSU Buzzer-Beater…

Posted by EJacoby on March 2nd, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. On the first night of March, the college basketball slate did not disappoint. It was another packed night around the country, featuring some important Pac-12 action and bubble teams blowing opportunities in home games. We also have our first conference tournament final matchup set, as VMI and UNC-Asheville both completed 20-point victories to advance to the championship of the Big South Tournament. There was much quarterfinal action in other tournaments as well. But first, we highlight a crazy finish in the ACC that left the home team stunned and the visitors in a familiar place — victorious after a game-winning shot…

Your Watercooler Moment. Another Seminole Game-Winner.

The previous two times, it was Michael Snaer. On Thursday night, it was Ian Miller. For the third time this season, Florida State converted a game-winning three-point bucket to give the Seminoles a dramatic win. Virginia led 58-47 with under five minutes to play before the ‘Noles made a late surge that culminated in Miller’s buzzer-beater. This result also has major implications in the ACC, as FSU avoided a three-game losing streak to clinch the #3 seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament. Virginia, meanwhile, is in a bit of trouble after this loss. The Cavaliers now drop to 8-7 in the ACC, tied with NC State, Miami, and Clemson. Despite still being ranked in the Top 25, UVA has to start getting a bit worried about its NCAA Tournament status. The Cavaliers are 21-8 overall but don’t have a particularly strong overall profile, with just one top-40 win that came over Michigan in November. They have the #226 non-conference strength of schedule that includes a bad loss to TCU early in the year. They have an RPI of #39 that will be falling as well — not exactly lock status anymore. Virginia should be alright going forward if it can get a win at Maryland in its season finale, but a loss in that one on Terrapin Senior Night will definitely spell some worries for Tony Bennett’s team.

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • Kentucky Won’t Let Up. Throughout the grueling conference season, nearly all teams end up slipping up at least once along the way. Trap games, long flights, three games in a week — there are plenty of excuses that teams use for poor performances. But John Calipari’s team has played at an elite level the entire season. UK, which leads the country in scoring margin, hammered Georgia from the start on Thursday night to remain undefeated in the SEC heading into its season finale in Gainesville this weekend. Don’t expect a letdown from this team in that one.
  • No Howland Hangover. Just one day removed from the Sports Illustrated article that shed light on Ben Howland’s loss of control over the UCLA program, the Bruins did not seem at all distracted on the court. UCLA dominated Washington State for a 32-point victory, led by Lazeric Jones’ and Tyler Lamb’s combined 34 points and 10 assists. How crazy would it be if this team shut everyone up and made a run in the Pac-12 Tournament to win the conference and advance to the NCAA Tournament? It’s certainly possible, given the Bruins’ talent and the overall weak state of the Pac-12.  Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Team Previews: Oregon

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 31st, 2011

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.

Oregon Ducks

Strengths.  The Ducks return six players from last season’s CBI Championship team, including starters E.J. Singler, Tyrone Nared, and Garrett Sim. Oregon’s depth in the backcourt will only be rivaled by a few other teams in the conference as they feel comfortable with four out of the six guards on the roster ready to contribute immediately. Leading that group is the aforementioned Sim and true freshman Jabari Brown, who spurned offers from Washington and Connecticut (among others) to come to Eugene. The second group features sophomore Johnathan Loyd and freshman Bruce Barron, who turned down Washington and Oklahoma State to join Brown with the Ducks. The foul out/garbage time guy will be Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph, who will be eligible beginning on Dec. 10 when the Ducks host Fresno State. Joseph put up very solid numbers with the Golden Gophers before transferring midway through the year, but with the talent and depth already in place, he will have trouble finding meaningful minutes. In the frontcourt are two returning starters who still haven’t completely lived up to their potential, Singler and Nared. If both guys, Singler especially, can build on the strong finishes they had during the CBI last year, it could be the difference between an NCAA berth and the NIT.

E.J. Singler and Tyrone Nared both showed signs of greatness in last year's CBI tournament. If they can build on those performances then maybe they will be playing in the NCAAs instead next March.

Weaknesses.  Scoring and rebounding in the paint will be tough for the Ducks early on as they look for a replacement for do-everything forward Joevan Catron (15.9 PPG, 6.7 RPG). Senior Jeremy Jacob will be asked to step in for Catron, but a lingering knee injury could hold him from a breakout year. For any team, but especially a young one like the Ducks have, the nonconference schedule is incredibly tough. The Ducks will travel to Vanderbilt and Nebraska and also have a quasi-neutral site matchup against BYU in Salt Lake City.

Nonconference Tests.  Oregon plays 12 nonconference games, and a 10-2 record in those would be a great accomplishment. Oregon’s four tests will be against Vanderbilt (Nov. 11, Nashville), Nebraska (Nov. 23, Lincoln), BYU (Dec. 3, Salt Lake City), and Virginia (Dec. 18, Eugene). If Oregon gets out of that stretch with a 2-2 record, things will be looking up going into conference play. They should roll through the rest of their schedule, though, with a Nov. 29 meeting versus UTEP at Matthew Knight Arena being the toughest game remaining on the slate.
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