University of Oregon (Public – Research Institution)
Location: Eugene, OR
Current Record: 16-6 (7-3 in Pac-12 Conference)
RPI: 78 SOS: 109
Coach: Dana Altman (2nd year)
First Thought: The University of Oregon is often thought of as the “University of Nike”, due to massive donations that Nike founder Phil Knight gives to the university. However, academically the university ranks among weakest in the entire Pac-12. This led Scott Woodward, AD at Washington, to say these famous words back in November 2010:
“It’s embarrassing at the level that the state supports this once-great academic university because it’s gone way down in academic standing because of the enormous lack of support over the decades…What they have done here athletically is nothing short of a miracle. It is fabulous what they have invested and how they have done it. But it is a shame that the whole enterprise isn’t benefiting (from the athletic success) and that’s one thing that is very much a sense of pride at the University of Washington, that our whole enterprise is excellent in all we do.”
These comments immediately drew the ire of the administrations of both universities and Woodward was forced to apologize for comments that were in fact accurate and honest. And if you don’t believe me, take a look at Oregon’s academic rankings by the Academic Rankings of World Universities for the past decade:
Best Win: 59-57 at Arizona (RPI 74)
Worst Loss: 76-71 at home to Oregon State (RPI 123)
Last Game: 64-43 loss at Colorado (RPI 81)
Synopsis: The Oregon Ducks have put together a decent season so far and may be able to do enough to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament. But, their non-conference schedule ranked #93 and playing in the Pac-12 isn’t helping it much, as their current SOS is 104. They seriously need to continue to rack up wins if they have any hope to make the tournament. Despite being in 3rd place in the Pac-12, they are not in Joe Lunardi’s bracketology, even under “next four out”, even while Arizona and Stanford are.
Oregon is a balanced team under Dana Altman with 3 players averaging over 30 minutes per game, but another 6 averaging more than 14 minutes. With a 9-man rotation, Altman has the opportunity to rest some guys. In quickly rebuilding the Ducks, Altman has scoured the country looking for bodies to fill out the roster in short order, including relying on transfers including bringing in Devoe Joseph from Minnesota and Olu Ashaolu from Louisiana Tech.
Devoe Joseph is not only the Ducks leading scorer at 15.8 ppg, but he also averages the most minutes at more than 34.8 min. So, he is really the heart and sole of this club right now. The 6’4″ senior guard also came off two consecutive 20 point performances before scoring “just” 18 in their heart breaking loss to Colorado. The Huskies have had a hard time preventing opposing guards from having career games against them this season (Nevada’s Burton, South Dakota St.’s Wolters, USC’s Jackson), so they need to be focused defensively to stop Joseph.
Another weapon is well known junior forward E.J. Singler, who is averaging 30 minutes and 13 ppg. He can shoot it from long range and can take it inside. He scored 26 against UCLA a couple of weeks ago and 20 against the Huskies in Seattle. In Eugene, the defense (mostly likely Desmond Simmons or Terrance Ross) needs to really be keyed in on Singler to prevent him from getting hot beyond the arc.
Another dangerous player the Huskies have to watch out for is senior guard Garrent Sim, who is averaging nearly 12 ppg in 30 minutes per contest. He scored 13 against the Huskies and was pretty hot for a while before cooling off late in the game.
Lastly, there is senior power forward Olu Ashaolu, who became almost infamous in Seattle following his intentional, but not quite “provable” elbow on Tony Wroten. After quite the wait, while the referees looked at the TV monitors, they ultimately decided that Darnell Gant should get the technical for separating Tony and Olu and standing up for his teammate, rather than Olu being held accountable for purposely swinging his elbow. Watch out for more rough play from Olu, especially if Altman decides to employ the “Hack-Aziz” strategy.
Analysis: I predict this will be a tight ball game. This is for multiple reasons. First of all, all Washington games seem to be tight games in recent weeks, no matter who the competition is. Secondly, Oregon has some decent talent and has been doing well in the Pac-12. Lastly, the game is in Eugene and road games are always tricky for the Huskies. I would not be shocked with a loss, especially if the Ducks get hot from beyond the arc and the Huskies struggle to play on that ugly court. I am most concerned about Olu Ashaolu dominating inside if Aziz gets in foul trouble on the road (been known to happen) following his antics in Seattle or the Huskies allow E.J. Singler to have another career game against the Dawgs.
With that funky court, loud fans, and bad Pac-12 referees, I see another slow start for the Huskies. I see Oregon in control for most of the game before a furious TRoss led 2nd half comeback, and then a wild finish. In the end, I am fearful it will end in a loss given the Huskies have a history of losing games down in the State of Oregon. I hope I am wrong.
My Prediction: Oregon 73 Washington 70