Whenever teams from opposite coasts in the Pac-12 and Big East face off, the visiting team usually has an arduous road trip ahead. However, when Oregon and Georgetown play each other at 8 p.m. ET in the Armed Forces Classic, both squads will be battling jet lag.
The Ducks and Hoyas tip off their respective seasons on a U.S. Army base in South Korea at Camp Humphreys as a way of entertaining and showing support for troops overseas. If there was ever a good reason to start the college basketball season thousands of miles away, that is certainly it.
Let’s dig into a few key storylines as the road to March begins.
Oregon is coming off a Sweet 16 appearance in the 2013 NCAA tournament and is ranked No. 19 in the initial AP Top 25 poll. However, off-court issues present coach Dana Altman with a difficult challenge early.
Sophomores Dominic Artis and Ben Carter will both miss Friday’s game and are suspended indefinitely after breaking NCAA rules by selling team-issued apparel. It is a crippling blow, especially in the case of Artis, for a team that lost much of its frontcourt and will be relying on its guards.
Artis averaged better than eight points and three assists as a freshman and played well down the stretch. He was anticipated to have an even more significant role this year (and probably still will upon his eventual return). Furthermore, the loss of Carter off the bench leaves the Ducks even thinner down low.
Keeping the Big East Legit
No league lost as much as the Big East did once the conference realignment merry-go-round finally came to a rest (for the time being). Powerhouse programs Louisville, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame all bolted for the ACC, although the Cardinals are stuck in American Athletic Conference purgatory this year.
Georgetown, Villanova and Marquette are the three remaining mainstays from recent years. Yes, the Big East added former mid-major darlings Butler, Xavier and Creighton, but those names don’t quite pack the same punch as the teams that left.
The Hoyas will be asked to carry the league’s flag on Friday after losing Otto Porter to the NBA and Greg Whittington to knee surgery. Markel Starks, Jabril Trawick and company will have their hands full with the athletic Ducks.
There has been a debate about who the top conference is between the Big East, Big Ten and ACC the past couple of seasons, but the Big East is likely out of those discussions for now. However, a flagship program getting a nonconference win against a ranked team from another power league would provide a solid public perception boost.
Ducks Proving Mettle
Regardless of the fact that Stanford has its number, Oregon has established itself as a football powerhouse. However, it doesn’t get the same respect on the hardwood.
Last year the Ducks won the Pac-12 tournament in impressive fashion and had as much momentum as almost anyone else in the country heading into the Big Dance. However, they were rewarded (punished?) with a No. 12 seed by the selection committee and still battled their way to the Sweet 16. They even gave eventual national champion Louisville a run for its money.
This year Oregon is ranked No. 19 and has a chance to prove it is worthy of more respect in a marquee nonconference tilt. The suspensions will hurt, but transfers Joseph Young and Mike Moser, along with Damyean Dotson and Johnathan Loyd, will provide plenty of firepower.