Who Won the Week? Two Undefeated Teams, But Certainly Not The Third…

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker) on February 7th, 2014

wonweek

Who Won the Week? is a regular column that outlines and discusses three winners and losers from the previous week of hoops. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.

WINNER: Wichita State

Cleanthony Early was outstanding for the Shockers. (AP)

Cleanthony Early was outstanding this week for the Shockers. (AP)

The nation’s winningest team cleared its toughest conference hurdle Wednesday night in defeating Indiana State in Terre Haute, led by senior forward Cleanthony Early’s 19 points. From here on, the Shockers have better than 50 percent odds to go undefeated in the regular season, according to KenPom.com, and about 35 percent odds to make it to the NCAA Tournament unblemished. Wichita State’s reign over the Missouri Valley has been so strong this year that only two teams – Missouri State and Indiana State – have even finished within 10 points of them. Tomorrow’s game at Northern Iowa is the toughest remaining tilt for the Shockers, which also sandblasted Evansville 81-67 last Saturday.

(Related winners: Gregg Marshall, whose stock will never be higher, even if he never wants to leave; the Missouri Valley, which is certain to get some more NCAA Tournament win shares, even without Creighton in the conference. Related losers: Indiana State, the MVC”s second-best team, which probably has to win Arch Madness to make the NCAAs; Evansville, perpetually anonymous in purple.)

LOSER: Arizona

Of the triumvirate of teams that came into last weekend undefeated, only two came out unscathed. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they weren’t one of them. Their road trip to California, the toughest game left on their schedule at that point, turned out to be undone by a last-second jumper from Golden Bears’ guard Justin Cobbs over center Kaleb Tarczewski, giving Cal a 60-58 win. That news was bad enough, but worse was what came after — that sophomore forward Brandon Ashley, a starter, had broken his foot during the game and would be out for the season. In Thursday’s 67-65 win over Oregon, Arizona looked disjointed offensively and saw star freshman Aaron Gordon injure his leg in a game in which he made just 2-of-11 free throws. The Wildcats actually trailed the disintegrating Ducks with just 90 seconds left before point guard T.J. McConnell made a three-pointer that gave them the lead for good. Sean Miller only played seven players, even accounting for Gordon’s injury, and its lack of depth could be problematic should more injuries arise or should fouls accumulate. It’s a shame to see this happen because a full-strength Arizona team looked to be head and shoulders above all but a few others around the country.

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Dominic Artis Shines in Season Debut For Oregon

Posted by Kenny Ocker on December 18th, 2013

There was some question as to how the Oregon Ducks would reintegrate returning suspended sophomores Dominic Artis and Ben Carter into an offense that was statistically one of the most efficient in the country. If the Ducks play as they did in the pair’s return Tuesday night against UC Irvine, that topic will quickly be rendered moot. Oregon came out and drained its first five three-pointers during a 30-7 run early in the first half, two of which Artis assisted on, and took a 48-29 lead into halftime in Eugene during an eventual 91-63 win.

Dominic Artis Looked Good in His 2013-14 Debut

Dominic Artis Looked Good in His 2013-14 Debut

Like many other games for Oregon this season, the scoring load was spread around and the shooting was strong, both from inside the arc and three-point range. Artis and Carter each played bit parts as coach Dana Altman works them into his rotation – the former scored five points and had eight rebounds and three assists; the latter four points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals – while four players finished in double figures, led by senior transfers Joseph Young, who had 18 on 7-of-10 shooting, and Mike Moser, who had 15 points and six rebounds while making 3-of-4 three-point attempts.

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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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The Civil War: For Oregon and Oregon State, One Game Says It All

Posted by Kenny Ocker on January 7th, 2013

Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker on Twitter) is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Sunday night’s Civil War game between Oregon State and Oregon in Corvallis.

After December drags on with a dearth of meaningful games, the first weekend of conference play is a welcome sight for basketball fans. Everybody wants to see how their teams match up against the schools that matter, and are looking for meaningful results to hang their hopes on for the rest of the season. But as tempting as it is to judge how good your favorite squad really is, it’s still too soon to see what each team’s future looks like just yet. That urge to decide what’s in store is magnified when that first game is the 338th edition of the most-played game in college basketball: the Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State.

Oregon forward E.J. Singler seems to be back on track after a slow start to 2012-13. The senior had 15 points and nine rebounds, the second-highest total in each stat this season. (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll.)

Oregon forward E.J. Singler seems to be back on track after a slow start to 2012-13. The senior had 15 points and nine rebounds, the second-highest total in each stat this season. (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll.)

One game into the Pac-12 schedule, it looks like Oregon is an NCAA Tournament-level squad after taking a 79-66 road win against rival Oregon State in Corvallis. The Ducks have a realistic shot at making the school’s first Sweet Sixteen since an Elite Eight run in 2006-07 led by Aaron Brooks and a host of other shooters. But Dana Altman’s Ducks are a different sort of team than Kent’s free-wheeling, fast-break-loving squad of yore. The 2012-13 version thrives on its defense, led by shot-altering Wake Forest transfer Tony Woods and quick-handed Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi. Even if the Ducks play at an above-average tempo, they aren’t hanging up the consistent 80-point scores from those days. Instead, they’ve got a stifling defense currently in the top 10 in defensive points per possession, and have enough offense to get by even with senior leader E.J. Singler struggling to regain the form that helped guide the Ducks to the NIT last season. (I’m thinking he shouldn’t have cut his Samson-like locks after last season. His scoring and rebounding are both down this year, as is his once-stellar free-throw percentage, which finally crested 80 percent again Sunday night.)

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Pac 12 M5: 11.21.12 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on November 21st, 2012

  1. Although Colorado and Tad Boyle are pleased with their early season performance and championship in the Charleston Classic, not everyone is content on the Buffaloes. Wesley Gordon, a surprising redshirt freshman who many thought would impact the Buffaloes this year due to their lack of depth in the front court, has not been able to help the Buffaloes early on this year. Gordon chose to redshirt, but in the final of the classic against Murray State, the Buffaloes’ Andre Roberson and Josh Scott both got into foul trouble and Colorado had to rely on players like Xavier Johnson and Jeremy Adams to step up. Neither Adams Nor Johnson are 6’8″ and 225 pounds like Gordon and neither has the defensive ability that Gordon possesses. Even though Gordon did choose this on his own for betterment of the program, early on, he seems to be adjusting to his decision slowly.
  2. With the Oregon Ducks losing three starters in Devoe Joseph, Garret Sim, and Olu Ashaolu last year to graduation, there were doubts about this team, but the defense has picked up the slack to start off the year. For the second consecutive game, Oregon held their opposition to 20 points in the first half. Adding Arsalan Kazemi to a team with Tony Woods up front certainly has helped. The Ducks have registered 40 steals in their first four games and blocked 17 shots. Even better for Dana Altman, the players believe they have a long way to go still on defense, which isn’t good news for the rest of the Pac-12.
  3. The other team in Oregon, the Oregon State Beavers, are still dealing with the season-ending injury of Angus Brandt. Coach Craig Robinson seems unfazed by the injury as he still believes his team can make the NCAA Tournament. In Brandt’s absence, the Beavers will have to use more of the 6’9″  freshman Olaf Schaftnaar off the bench and most likely start other 6’7″ freshman Jarmal Reid in Brandt’s place. Additionally, the Beavers will need more out of Joe Burton, Eric Moreland, and Devon Collier. The Beavers are fine from a depth standpoint to replace Brandt, but they’ll need to improve their overall play up front to truly make Craig Robinson forget Brandt’s injury.
  4. As if the Washington State Cougars didn’t have enough trouble last night, getting dominated by Kansas 78-41, they also lost DaVonte Lacy to an apparent knee injury. Lacy left the game after only five minutes and was unable to play tonight in the Cougars’ 55-54 loss to Texas A&M, a result that could have changed were able to play. No news has come out yet on Lacy’s injury as he will be evaluated today in Pullman, but a loss of a starter and 8.5 PPG so far this year would be a major problem for the Cougars if he’s out for a prolonged period of time. Given that was Lacy is a major contributor for the team-wide project of finding a replacement for the dismissed Reggie Moore, the WSU problems at the lead guard position may have just gotten worse.
  5. Everything is still the same for Sean Miller down in Arizona. If you can shoot the lights out and score on offense, it won’t matter if you can’t play defense. That’s exactly Kevin Parrom‘s dilemma. Parrom went 5-5 from three putting up 15 points in 20 minutes, but Sean Miller said his playing time will be predicated on how he plays defense. The Wildcats gave up 14 threes to Long Beach and Parrom’s guarding of Long Beach’s shooting guards was a main reason for this. Parrom knows he has to improve on defense, and if he does, he will continue to see the floor. If not, guys like Jordin Mayes and freshman Gabe York are more than willing to steal some minutes.
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Pac-12 Team Previews: Oregon Ducks

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 22nd, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Oregon Ducks.

Strengths: After having to share the spotlight with Devoe Joseph and Garrett Sim last season, E.J. Singler will get all the touches he can handle in 2012-13. The senior forward has the skill set to make an All-Pac-12 list by season’s end, but he’ll need some help so opponents don’t key in solely on him all game long. That’s where Arsalan Kazemi comes in. A late transfer from Rice, Kazemi had been projected by many to win the C-USA Player of the Year award in many preseason publications. Now he’s in Eugene, where head coach Dana Altman has described him as the best player in practice so far this October. Assuming the NCAA grants him a hardship waiver to play immediately, the Ducks go from a fringe NIT team to the NCAA bubble.

Weaknesses: If you’re wondering who will start in the backcourt, you’re in the same boat as Altman. Junior Johnathan Loyd will get the nod at the one spot, but while his passing game is one of the best in the league, his scoring ability leaves much to be desired. Whoever starts at the two is anyone’s guess, and we likely won’t know until the season opener against Northern Arizona. It could be junior walk-on Nicholas Lucenti, who played in all of five games last year for an astounding average of 0.0 PPG. Or it could very well be one of the six newcomers at the guard spot for 2012-13. Either way, the Ducks are going to be relying heavily on post play to put some points on the scoreboard.

It’s Tough To Find A Picture Of A Guy That Only Played 14 Minutes in 2011-12, But We Did It. Lucenti Could Possibly Be Oregon’s Starter At Shooting Guard Come November 10. (credit: Eric Evans)

Non-Conference Tests: The Ducks will face four stiff non-conference tests this season, three of which will come in an eight-day span in late November. Oregon will host Vanderbilt on November 16, and just seven days later will face #17 UNLV (RTC Poll used in this post) in the Thomas & Mack Center. Their strength of schedule would get a major boost if they faced a fringe Top 25 club in Cincinnati the next day instead of Iowa State. The final test will come on New Year’s Eve at Matthew Knight Arena against a possible NCAA bubble team in Nevada.

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