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.
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.
So, the lesson is… don’t turn the ball over, right? Sounds easy enough, but the Cardinals are the second-best team in the land at turning over their opponents (they force turnovers on 28% of all possessions) and the Ducks have been pretty loose with the ball by losing it over on more than 21% of all their possessions. Singler has been pretty egregious in this area, especially considering the fact that he doesn’t handle it nearly as much as some of the guards on this team; backup point guard Jonathan Loyd has also been losing the ball quite a bit – in fact, nearly 30% of all the possessions he uses end in turnovers. Meanwhile, freshman point guard Dominic Artis has done a better job of handling of the ball. The only problem is that Artis hasn’t been nearly the same player that he was after returning from a foot injury that cost him nine games. Altman has been working him back into the rotation slowly but surely, but now is the time when he needs to explode back onto the scene, although it remains to be seen just how healthy he is.
Assuming the Ducks can limit turnovers, they could have an advantage on the glass in the half-court. While the Cards are a very good offensive rebounding team, they haven’t done as well on the defensive glass, in part because big guys like Gorgui Dieng and Montrezl Harrell sometimes are out of position when attempting to block shots. Cue up Arsalan Kazemi and Tony Woods for the Ducks, who both have the ability to get on the glass to earn easy buckets for their team. Kazemi in particular is a rebounding savant, the nation’s best defensive rebounder and a guy with a real nose for the ball. He’ll need to have a great day on both backboards, cleaning the defensive glass to prevent second chances for the Cards while earning his own team easy hoops and additional possessions on the offensive window.
Last but not least, for Oregon to have a shot, they’ll need to get scoring from across the roster. Singler has been their leading scorer this season, and while he gets the most looks, he’s been up and down all year by mixing in high-efficiency nights with monstrosities where he pairs turnovers with shooting struggles. Fellow senior Carlos Emory and freshman Damyean Dotson have had troubles with consistency as well. But since the Pac-12 Tournament kicked off, Dotson has been fantastic. He’s averaged 16.8 points per game while shooting a 61.2% eFG over that stretch. With Dotson likely expected to match up with one of the nation’s best perimeter defenders in Russ Smith, he’ll have a hard time keeping that streak alive; but if he can, and if the Ducks can take care of the two issues above, Altman’s squad could keep the dance alive into the Elite Eight.