The Buffs are headed to Eugene for a tilt with a a well-funded rival. Tip-off from Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene isn't until 9pm this evening, though. Put on a coffee, 'cause this one is going late. ESPNU has the sights and sounds, with 850 KOA the descriptions and Mark Johnson.
Click below for the preview...
When last we met -
Looking back at this one, the last matchup between CU and Oregon may as well have come from a different century. Back in the first week of conference play, 2014, CU was solidly in the top-25, playing some of the best basketball of the Tad Boyle era. Their only losses were understandable ones to former Big XII rivals Baylor and Oklahoma State, notably away from Boulder. While they weren't a perfect team, they were about the ideal of what this coaching staff strives for - defensive minded, smart in attack, and balanced.
In what was one of the premier games in the country that week, the normally defensive-minded Buffs got into a boat race with the previously undefeated, free scoring Ducks, much to the benefit of all 10,398 in attendance. A thoroughly entertaining, engrossing game, CU crossed the finish line first, winners of a 100-91 final. Yep, 100 to fucking 91; a far cry from that 48-47 snooze-fest from 2013. That's why the Oregon game is a bittersweet one to look back upon. It's the last time that team finished a home 40 minutes whole and healthy, and serves as a last glimpse at what could've been.
|The Buffs were getting hot at a pretty good time. Unfortunately, it wasn't to last. From: the BDC|
For the #20 Buffaloes, knocking off the #10 Ducks at home was only an upset if you don't know what you're watching. I cringed when the students started chanting 'O-VER-RA-TED' at the end, because it was Colorado who was underrated, or at least under-appreciated by the country at large. That would change however, as the Buffs leaped into the top-15 after this result.
|Get to the line; rinse, repeat. From: the BDC|
Leading the way for Colorado was the dynamic guard duo of Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie. The pair combined for 50 points, 32 in the second half, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, and 2 steals. Ski's individual line alone is highly impressive, overflowing with a 27/7/4 exclamation point against zero turnovers. Also starring was Josh Scott. Quiet as ever, the double-double machine recorded his 5th straight by posting 15/14 with 4 blocks. The troika of talent was at the top of their respective games, and, damn, was it fun to watch.
|Ski and Spencer were magnificent. From: the BDC|
Of course, this glimpse at the pinnacle of the sport was a fleeting one. Within a week, the team was thrown off the rails by Dinwiddie's heartbreaking injury, while questions and doubt started to creep into the program. Regardless of how the future develops, however, we'll always have this game, this one perfect performance. I look back and smile, which is what this is all about. Bravo!
The Ducks in 2014-15 -
The current version of the Ducks is no less offensive minded, and just as defensively suspect as last year. While the previous iteration, who made it to the Sweet Sixteen, was better at each phase, Oregon of the present is still a pretty damn good team... which is also pretty damn surprising.
See, this year's Ducks were supposed to suck, hard. After years of letting his players run amok, Coach Dana Altman was finally having to deal with the consequences. Not only was Oregon fighting to replace the assembled talent of graduating seniors Richard Amardi, Waverly Austin, Jason Calliste, Jonathan Loyd, and Mike Moser, but they were also paying for the fast-and-loose mentality of the underclassmen. Damyean Dotson, Dominic Artis, and Brandon Austin were booted off the team, conveniently after they helped secure that trip to the Tournament's second weekend, for being the focus of a rape investigation. Add to that the outward transfer of Ben Carter and A.J. Lapray, the non-arrival of recruits JaQuan Lyle and Ray Kasongo, and the pending shoplifting arrests of current players Elgin Cook and Jalil Abdul-Bassit, and the entire Oregon program seemed prime for implosion.
|A window into a dark period of Oregon's hoops history...|
Statistically, it's all down to their electrifying offensive attack. Overall, Oregon is in the top-25 for points per game (76.8), averaging about 1.1 ppp, and can score with the best. Yep, these guys still run like crazy, taking over 27% of all shots in transition, and generally keep heart rates up. They're 31st in offensive pace, both through an aggressive turn on the break, and a quick trigger in the half-court. Holistically, they are a balanced attack, scoring about 30% of points from deep, and 53% inside the arc (slightly above national averages), boiling down to the second best eFG in the Pac-12. One area they do not excel, however, is getting to the free throw line. 344th national in attempt rate, they get less than 17% of all scoring from there. Really, they only have one player who makes getting to the stripe a part of his game, and it can hurt them in on the odd evening. Still, when there, they make 76% of the time.
|The Ducks got clipped by the Bruins this weekend, but have otherwise been enjoying a great season.|
The yin and yang of their style is telling in their results. They score 80.5 points per game in wins, 69.5 per in losses. Opponents produce 82.6 points per in wins, 66.4 in losses. It's all or nothing, both ways, against the Ducks. Let's see which side of the coin lands upwards tonight.
Star Players -
While the roster juggled over the offseason, one force remained constant - senior guard Joseph Young. As pure a scoring threat as you'll find in the country, last year's transfer sensation from Houston is a firecracker lead guard. Nominally a point, the 6-2 Young is really a score-first handler, and only really has the '1' duties because there's no one on the roster capable of supplanting him (and he needs the ball in hand to operate). Like Ski Booker in a lot of ways, he's a volume producer. If he's hot early, look out, 'cause you're in for a show.
|Joe Young is a fantastic offensive talent.|
Working off of Young on the wing is another veteran, 6-6 stretch forward Elgin Cook. Equally adept at creating his own look, Cook brings a great offensive game to the table, and is usually Oregon's best option if Young is getting bracketed - he averages 13/6 each night, which is more than serviceable. Originally a transfer from Northwest Florida State, he brought a checkered past with him to Eugene, a history further spotted with the shoplifting arrest this summer. On the court though, the junior is integral to the Ducks' flight status, and they wouldn't be where they are today without him. The potential matchup between Cook and Xavier Johnson should be fun.
|Cook is another Duck with a strong offensive game.|
Yet another transfer, junior forward Dwayne Benjamin from Mt San Jacinto JC, supports the cause up front. Saddled with the 'Snoop Dogg' moniker from Bill Walton, the well coiffed Benjamin plays a stretch four position, much like Cook, and does a lot of the little things on the court. While a brick layer at the line (44%), he otherwise likes to play above the rim. Posting 8/5 each night, he fills his role well.
I'd like to reiterate my frustration with Dana Altman and his saving throw of a season. He faced a lot of scrutiny this summer, not only for allowing the accused rapists to play in the Tournament, but for keeping them on the team just long enough for their academic scores to apply to Oregon's APR scores. While Coach Altman has plenty of excuses for the way that scenario went down, it smells extremely fishy; some Southwest Conference level shit.
|The Teflon Don in Eugene survives.|
The thing is, Coach Boyle and crew have usually had his number. The Buffs are 5-1 against Altman's Ducks since the conference move, including a delicious one-point win in Los Angeles on the way to the 2012 Pac-12 title. It is what it is, *shrugs*.
(My record on the season: 8-6. Against the spread: 8-6. Optimistic/pessimistic: CU -1.5 pts/gm)
Lines as of Tuesday @ 7pm - CU +5.5
There's been a lot of talk this week about the return of the #TadBall focus on defense and rebounding. It certainly worked against Stanford, where a renewed team approach based in the basics felled the Cardinal. The problem is, I just don't see it carrying over into a match with the high-flying Ducks.
I could see a path to victory if we get a repeat of 2013, one of the ugliest games I've ever seen. If you keep the score down, these guys are vulnerable, and a game played in the 90-120 point range should be 'winnable.' If Oregon gets off to a fast start, however, CU is in trouble, as they just won't be able to keep up with the Ducks' offensive pace. I fully expect that reality to develop, and the Buffs to fall.
UO 71 - CU 60
GO BUFFS! PROVE ME WRONG, AND BEAT THE DUCKS!