Conference play is underway, and it’s time to take what we’ve learned from a couple months of uneven schedules and evolving lineups and try to project that forward to a couple grueling months of the conference meat grinder. To wit:
“What trends that we’ve seen developing in the non-conference do you see continuing or changing as we head into the final 18?”
Connor Pelton: Going into the season, if I had told you Oregon would be 11-2 going into Pac-12 play, most would have said E.J. Singler would either be leading the team in scoring or a close second behind Arsalan Kazemi. Instead, Singler has fallen into a role as more of a distributor, now passing up shots he had to take last year. With options like Tony Woods and Carlos Emory in the post, and capable scorers Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis on the perimeter, I see no reason why the Ducks wouldn’t be able to keep up their success sustained thus far. This is a much more balanced team than in years past, so much so that Singler has been able to sit out nearly four more minutes a game than in 2011-12. With all of this said, the senior has to be able to hit big shots when needed. In Oregon’s triple-overtime loss at UTEP last month, Singler was a complete non-factor in the three extra periods. Not only that, he only hit one shot all game long. If the freshmen up top are freezing in big games late in the year, it’ll be Singler who gets the call. I think he answers it, giving the Ducks a great shot at reaching their first NCAA Tournament in five years.
Oregon Has Had Success So Far, But Needs Singler To Contribute More
Adam Butler: I foresee the improvement of Stanford’s Dwight Powell to continue. Here’s a guy who’s long had the physical tools to be good and in the preseason (both this and last year), we discussed just how good he could be. A season ago he played through injury and, frankly, awkwardness; a hint of a baby giraffe out there. This year he’s begun to assert himself, catapulting his usage numbers into the realm of team leader. He’s put up some insanely impressive games and those have been the one’s he’s sought to be the man. And that’s the trend I expect to see continue. When he’s on, he makes Randle and Bright better. Consistency will be the name of the game for this Canadian and I really think that the routine of a Pac-12 season (Thursday, Saturday, Thursday, Saturday…) can really help these guys get into comfort zones the non-conference slate doesn’t always afford. For Powell, 10 to 15 shots per game will be his sweet spot. It’d also be sweet if he didn’t foul people. He has a tendency to do such. Powell is still improving, which is a scary thought considering he went for 23/8 against CJ Leslie and N.C. State. One other thing I expect to continue is Shabazz Muhammad playing well. And that’s horrifying if you’re not wearing powder blue.
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