If you go to Kansas, Kentucky, or Syracuse, football season couldn’t have ended fast enough.
Why bother suffering through the endless Mark Mangino fat jokes when you could support a different sport in which the national media has doled out 62 first place votes?
Kentucky already has accounted for more wins on the hardwood in one month than they did on the football field since last October. I think fans in the Bluegrass State are much happier watching the most exciting player the country, freshman John Wall, instead of freshman quarterback Morgan Newton struggle his way to a 55.4 completion percentage.
And Syracuse, well, they were so desperate for basketball season that they stole Duke’s point guard to be their quarterback.
So if you’re a Duck fan, I hope you relished every second of the football regular season because after the Rose Bowl, it’s a long way back until football season. It hurts to say, but the most exciting sport during the winter in Eugene is football recruiting. But hey, at least we’re doing well at that!
Alright, maybe I’m being a bit too harsh. Or maybe not.
I had a chance to take in today’s game against the St. Mary’s Gaels and the team is clearly much improved from last year. It won’t take until February to win the first game of conference play. But the same crutches still remain: Turnovers, forced shots, missed free throws and the complete lack of a half court offense.
And what do you know, those exact reasons led to a fourth quarter collapse against a beatable St. Mary’s squad (I think they were the first team in the history of D1 basketball to start five white players, especially one with a 6-1 record).
The Ducks led most of the game, controlling the tempo and letting their superior athleticism bail them out in transition and on the glass. But late in the second half, Oregon started slowing the pace, trying to control the clock. And here’s a shocker – the Gaels started creeping their way back into the game.
In short, Oregon looked more lost running the half court set than when Bambi realized the hunter had made dinner out of his mother.
First of all, earth to Michael Dunigan: A screen doesn’t work just by running to a certain spot on the floor and standing there. You actually have to make contact with the defender. And secondly, didn’t you learn in elementary school that after you set your “screen” you roll to the basket? You don’t just lollygag at the top of the key with your hands in your pockets waiting for the play to end so it’s a shorter run back on defense.
I don’t get why Ernie Kent would force his team into an uncomfortable style of play that he KNOWS they aren’t good at, when the only reason they were winning in the first place was because they managed to completely avoid running a half court set the entire game.
Ernie Kent, dance with who brung you.
If you haven’t figured out yet, Oregon basketball is my whipping boy for Duck athletics. I can shamelessly say that I never get tired of Joevan Catron fat jokes or “fire Ernie Kent” talk.
And missing nine free throws in a five point loss isn’t going to slow me down anytime soon.
But let’s take a second to look at the positives.
With Tajuan Porter and Catron (thank God) sitting out, it gave some of the youngsters a chance to get some extra run. E.J. Singler, Malcom Armstead, and Jamil Wilson all look like future quality starters.
Singler brought back Kareem Abdul-Jabar’s famous sky hook, unleashing it against taller defenders successfully at least three times. He also has an eye for the correct passing lanes, dishing out four assists without recording a turnover.
Armstead will make a solid back-up point guard once Porter returns from his ankle woes. The juco transfer is a physical player who likes to take the ball to the rack and gives his all on D, averaging over 2.5 steals per game.
Wilson, when he isn’t tripping over his own feet, shows flashes of absolute brilliance. The freshman out of Wisconsin has a smooth stroke and a constant motor, always following his own shot and finding a man to box out. Then again, there’s the three for thirteen performance against Missouri last weekend.
But the player to watch this season is Teondre Williams. The sophomore looks like a completely different player than last year—and considering he had a 36.1 FG%, that’s a good thing.
He can shoot, drive, dish, defend, and deliver some rim-shaking dunks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make the Pac-10 second team.
Don’t get too excited yet, Duck fans, this team still has a long way to go before reaching even half of its potential. Until they understand the basics, Oregon will be in for a season filled with highs and (even more) lows.
Hopefully, Ernie Kent will soon check his ego at the door and give Mike Dunlap a chance to teach something Kent can’t: The fundamentals.