No. 17 Oregon entered Pac-12 play undefeated and had the look of a team capable of big things both within the conference and nationally. With their surplus of quick guards and productive front court players Dana Altman’s squad was threatening triple digits on a consistent basis, and when that happens the defensive end tends to be overlooked. But with the Ducks losing three of their first four league games, including an 82-80 home loss to Stanford on Sunday, it’s clear that Oregon has some serious issues to address on that end of the floor.
Most notably, their difficulty to defend bigger guards in their last three outings. After getting torched by Cal freshman Jordan Mathews on Wednesday night (and Colorado’s Askia Booker, who isn’t a big guard by any means, and Spencer Dinwiddie last Sunday), slowing the tandem of Anthony Brown and Chasson Randle proved to be problematic for the Ducks.
Brown, who scored just seven points on 1-for-10 shooting in the Cardinal’s loss at Oregon State, scored 24 points on 10-for-12 shooting to lead the way. Randle added 23 points on 8-for-14 shooting, and for as hard as the Ducks may have tried to keep those two from getting to their preferred areas on the floor their guards had little success in doing so.
Oregon’s four-guard attack of Dominic Artis, Jason Calliste, Johnathan Loyd and Joseph Young is more than capable of putting points on the board, but who’s their defensive stopper when it comes to dealing with the bigger guards of the Pac-12? Loyd’s the best defender but he stands at just 5-foot-8, and none of the other three are taller than 6-foot-2. Is this where a Damyean Dotson comes into play? That’s certainly an option, but he wasn’t too effective defensively on Sunday afternoon either. With this being the case Oregon even tried some zone looks against Stanford, who shot 52% from the field.
After allowing less than a point per possession in their Pac-12 opener at Utah (0.89 points/possession), Oregon’s opponents have scored at least 1.19 points per possession in each of the last three games. Stanford scored 1.23 points per possession on Sunday, not as bad as what Colorado averaged (1.3) but slightly worse than the figure Cal posted (1.19) on Wednesday. For all of the scorers that the Ducks have on the roster, defending in that manner is not going to get the job done when it comes to contending for a Pac-12 title.
And with a game against Oregon State and high-scoring guard Roberto Nelson next on the schedule, Oregon needs to find a quick answer to its perimeter defensive issues.
Much is made about the ball when it comes to how the sport of basketball is played and rightfully so, as the ball is the most important piece of equipment. Different brands have different characteristics, and with college basketball programs being able to pick the ball they use for home games there are adjustments to be made during the season.
Wisconsin will play at No. 2 Maryland Saturday, meaning that in the days leading up to the game the Badgers needed to get used to the Under Armour basketball. The brand became a conversation point in the aftermath of Maryland’s win over No. 4 Iowa last month, with the Hawkeyes (while not blaming the ball for their loss) made note of the differences between the Under Armour ball and the Nike ball they use for their home games.
Thursday Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes offered up his observations on the basketball while also pointing out (albeit sarcastically) the goal of intercollegiate athletics.
“It’s definitely different,” Hayes said. “Personally, we don’t like it too much. I don’t like the Under Armour ball whatsoever. But that’s the way this amateur sports league is set up. We’re supposed to be having fun, but all the money is in these basketballs that colleges play with. But it’s an amateur sport, we’re just here for fun. It’s not really that serious. So I guess any ball should be OK.
“Maybe we should have a universal ball like the NBA. You don’t go to the Clippers’ stadium and play with a Nike and then go to Golden State and play with a Rawlings. But in this amateur sport of college, where money isn’t the goal — it’s the student education and experience that you get — we play with a million different basketballs.”
Hayes makes a good point here, and in regards to the NBA all hell would break loose under similar circumstances (remember the leather vs. microfiber composite controversy in 2006?). If these games are solely about fun and the college experience, wouldn’t having one ball used by all schools better fit that mission? This isn’t the biggest of deals when it comes to “amateur” athletics, as different basketball brands have been used for years.
But Hayes was able to take this situation and work it into the discussion of the goals of intercollegiate athletics. Is it about the experience? Or does the ability to profit, be it through a minor move such as using a particular ball or the more impactful step of moving from one conference to another, take precedence? Given the shifts that have occurred in college sports in recent years, it’s quite apparent that the search for additional revenue streams has won out.
Hayes did note that neither he nor his teammates would make excuses, saying that the team would simple “have to get used to” the unfamiliar basketball according to the Wisconsin State Journal. In the end, this was a good use of sarcasm by Hayes to make a greater point about the collegiate athletics machine he and his teammates are but minor parts of.
It goes without saying that sports can inspire some interesting promises, from players and coaches guaranteeing victory to fans making statements that hinge on the outcome of a particular game or play (see: tattoos celebrating a team’s triumphs before they’ve even won the game in question). For one Marquette fan, the need for Providence’s Kris Dunn to miss a free throw during Wednesday night’s game (which Marquette won in overtime) inspired him to make a promise that he intended to keep.
Jamey Schilling took the approach of yelling that he’d pay Dunn $10 if he missed the free throw. Sure enough Dunn missed the shot, and Schilling made good on his promise. But with players themselves unable to receive such funds due to NCAA rules, Schilling sent the check to the Providence athletic department.
Schilling’s gesture did not go unnoticed by Marquette either, as the school sent him a gift card to use in the Marquette Spirit Shop.
H/T For The Win