Oregon Ducks

Oregon Ducks forward Dillon Brooks (24), collides in the first half against California in an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Jan. 20, 2016, in Eugene, Ore. Brooks later left the game with an injury on a different play. (AP Photo/Thomas Boyd)
AP Photo/Thomas Boyd

No. 11 Oregon blows by Cal, but Dillon Brooks leaves with “lower left leg injury”

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Oregon defeated Cal on Thursday. The score was 86-63. That hardly matters, though, considering what else occurred in Eugene.

Ducks star Dillon Brooks left the game with a “lower left leg injury,” which is particularly ominous considering it was a surgically repaired left foot that sidelined Brooks all summer and kept him from joining Oregon on the floor until mid-November.

As of Thursday evening, there was no specific clarification, leaving only questions not only about Brooks’ health but what Oregon will have to potentially do without him.

The Ducks can win without Brooks. They went 8-1 before Brooks ever logged 30 minutes in a game and blasted Washington State in Pullman when Brooks got ejected after just seven minutes. They didn’t need him to dismantle the Bears, shooting 58 percent from the floor for the game and 54.2 percent without him in the second half. Jordan Bell made 11 of 12 shots for a career-best 26 points, and three other Ducks scored in double figures.

It wouldn’t be ideal, but Oregon could tread water to a high seed with him missing a chunk of time as they’ve shown at different times throughout this season. The Ducks only have one matchup left with both UCLA and Arizona, coming back-to-back in the first week of February.

But if it’s a serious injury, it necessitates a recalibration of expectation for Oregon.

Brooks scored 23 and had the game-winner as the Ducks handled No. 3 UCLA its lone loss this season and had 28 points when they blew out then-No. 22 USC to end December. Brooks is too talented, too versatile and too important for a prolonged absence to be meaningfully weathered. The NCAA tournament just too often demands too much from teams to be without a player of Brooks’ caliber.

For Oregon to reach the heights that many predicted for it since last spring, Brooks has to be on the floor.

The wait for the diagnosis and prognosis, not just for Brooks but for Oregon’s season, is on.

College Basketball Talk Top 25: Villanova is the new No. 1

Villanova head coach Jay Wright shouts instructions to his team during the first half of N NCAA college basketball game against Miami in the regional semifinals of the men's NCAA Tournament in Louisville, Ky., Thursday, March 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley
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1. Villanova (14-0, Last Week: No. 2): It feels like what Villanova is doing this season is still flying under the radar despite the fact that they are undefeated and the No. 1 team in the country while staking claim as the reigning national champions.

2. UCLA (14-1, 3): UCLA lost on the road on a game-winner with 0.7 seconds left to a team that I now have in the top ten, a team that was in the preseason top five before we realized that Dillon Brooks, who is now healthy and mowing down opponents, wasn’t at 100 percent to start the year. I’m not concerned in the least.

3. Kansas (12-1, 4): The Jayhawks survived a scrappy TCU team in their Big 12 opener thanks to a punishing performance from center Landen Lucas. He has suddenly turned into the most important player on the Kansas team now that Udoka Azubuike is out for the year with a wrist injury.

4. Kentucky (11-2, 5): Kentucky put together their most complete performance on the season last week when they beat Ole Miss in Oxford. Isaiah Briscoe put up a triple-double, Bam Adebayo played his best game of the season and Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox did the things that Monk and Fox do.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBC Sports Top 25

5. Duke (12-2, 1): So what do we do with the Blue Devils? I’m still in the camp that says that Duke has the highest ceiling of any team in the country, and I also think we’ve underrated just how good Virginia Tech is this season; the Hokies would be undefeated right now if they hadn’t choked away a loss to Texas A&M in the Wooden Legacy semifinals. This isn’t like Duke going to Boston College and taking a beating.

But Duke still took a beating, and the biggest concern was that the Blue Devils seemed to lack the effort and the intensity to make the plays they needed to make defensively. They almost looked selfish offensively, as the lack of a point guard on that roster was glaring. They played without Grayson Allen, who was serving the first game of his suspension, but the issues Duke had on display were much bigger than Allen.

Put another way, Saturday made me think that Duke may not ever get to their ceiling. But hey, at least Harry Giles III finally scored a point.

(UPDATE: And now Coach K will miss up to a month to recover from back surgery.)

RELATED: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Five Takeaways

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6. Gonzaga (14-0, 8): The Bulldogs were pushed by both Pacific and Pepperdine this week, but came out unscathed with double-digit wins. There is a real chance that Gonzaga could head into Moraga on Feb. 11th as the lone undefeated team in college basketball.

7. Baylor (14-0, 9): The Bears keep rolling along. On Saturday, they opened up Big 12 play by mollywhopping Oklahoma in Norman. It is going to be fun when the Bears get together with Kansas this season, on Feb. 1st and Feb. 18th.

8. Wisconsin (12-2, 11): While Indiana lost twice last week and Purdue dropped a home game to Minnesota, the Badgers continue to roll along. Since Nigel Hayes made the change to being a point forward, the Badgers have looked like a totally different team.

9. Louisville (12-2, 7): Outside of Duke, Louisville is the hardest team in this poll to rank. They beat Kentucky, but they beat Kentucky by three in a game they were favored by two on their home floor, the same home floor where they were smacked around by Virginia just five days ago. But then the Cardinals turned around and gave Indiana a similar whooping in Indiana. Wherever you have them ranked, here’s what you need to admit: the Cards are, right now, as good as, if not better than any team in the ACC.

10. Oregon (13-2, 21): Oregon vaults up to No. 10 in our poll for one, simple reason: they’re back.

11. West Virginia (12-1, 12)
12. North Carolina (12-3, 6)
13. Creighton (13-1, 10)
14. Florida State (14-1, 25)
15. Virginia (11-2, 18)
16. Xavier (12-2, 16)
17. Saint Mary’s (12-1, 17)
18. Arizona (14-2, 22)
19. Cincinnati (13-2, 20)
20. Butler (12-2, 13)
21. Purdue (12-3, 14)
22. Virginia Tech (12-1, UR)
23. Notre Dame (12-2, 23)
24. USC (14-1, 19)
25. Indiana (10-4, 15)

DROPPED OUT: No. 24 Seton Hall
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 22 Virginia Tech

Dillon Brooks shines again as No. 21 Oregon hands No. 22 USC first loss

EUGENE, OR - DECEMBER 28: Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks celebrates after hitting the game winning shot against the UCLA Bruins at Matthew Knight Arena on December 28, 2016 in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Steve Dykes/Getty Images
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Dillon Brooks picked a hell of a week to prove to the nation that he’s healthy again.

Just 48 hours after the preseason all-american led No. 21 Oregon ended No. 2 UCLA’s undefeated run by posting 23 points, nine boards and four assists, he dropped 28 points on 9-for-10 shooting as the Ducks handed No. 22 USC their first loss of the season, 84-61.

Brooks missed the first three games of the regular season coming off of a foot injury he suffered over the summer. He only returned to the starting lineup four games ago; he’s averaging 20 points in those four games.

The two wins that the Ducks posted this weekend thrust them right back into the thick of the Pac-12 regular season title race, which didn’t look like it would necessarily be something that came to fruition this season. With Brooks struggling to find the form that made him one of college basketball’s best players last season Oregon looked like a shell of themselves. They were blown out at Baylor. They lost to Georgetown in the Maui Invitational. They struggled to beat the likes of Tennessee, UConn, Alabama and Boise State. They just didn’t look like the same team.

Until this week.

I wrote 1,200 words on the Ducks on Wednesday when they knocked off UCLA, and there isn’t much about Friday night’s win over USC that is all that different. But it is worth noting two things:

  • Dylan Ennis played his best game as a Duck, scoring 20 points, including 12 in the first six minutes of the second half as Oregon blew this game open. With Tyler Dorsey sputtering, it’s important for Oregon to have a back court scoring option.
  • The Ducks shot 8-for-20 from three two nights after hitting 11 threes against UCLA. The Ducks entered the week shooting 31.0 percent from beyond the arc. This team isn’t Creighton or UCLA, but they aren’t as bad as they’ve been from beyond the arc. Some regression to the mean was likely.

No. 22 Oregon downs UNLV 83-63 in Portland

PORTLAND, OR - DECEMBER 17: Tyler Dorsey #5 of the Oregon Ducks drives to the basket during the second half of the game against the UNLV Rebels at the Moda Center on December 17, 2016 in Portland, Oregon. The Ducks won the game 83-63. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Dillon Brooks had 20 points, including 16 in the second half, and the No. 22 Oregon Ducks extended their winning streak to eight games with an 83-63 victory over UNLV on Saturday night at Portland’s Moda Center.

Tyler Dorsey added 18 points while Jordan Bell had 16 points and 12 rebounds for Oregon (10-2), which led by 23 points in the second half. The Ducks have held 11 straight opponents under 70 points.

Jovan Mooring led the Rebels (6-5) with 20 points. Tyrell Green added 18 points and eight rebounds.

Oregon was without leading scorer Chris Boucher, who was on crutches and wearing a boot on his right foot on the Ducks’ bench.

It was unclear when Boucher was injured. He played in Oregon’s 81-67 victory at home over Montana on Tuesday night, scoring 23 points with 19 rebounds. He was a rebound short of becoming the Ducks’ first player since 1977 with 20 or more points and rebounds.

Boucher, a 6-foot-10 senior, is averaging 14.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game for Oregon this season. He ranks 10th nationally in blocks.

Boucher’s absence made way for Brooks’ first start of the season. Brooks has played off the bench since returning from offseason foot surgery.

Brooks was key to Oregon’s success last season, when the team won a school-record 31 games while claiming the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles. The Ducks earned a first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, advancing to Elite Eight for the first time since 2007.

The Ducks led by as many as 11 points in the first half. The Rebels closed within 34-29 late after Tyrell Green’s layup, but Oregon’s Tyler Dorsey answered with a 3-pointer.

Green hit a 3-pointer for UNLV to narrow it to 37-33 at the break. Green led all scorers with 15 points in the half.

Oregon went on a 10-run to open the first half, capped by Payton Pritchard’s 3-pointer, as the game started to get away from UNLV. The Ducks stretched the lead to 55-36 on Dorsey’s layup.

BIG PICTURE

UNLV: The Rebels are in the midst of a tough stretch where they’ll face three ranked teams. They lost at No. 5 Duke 94-45 last Saturday and they’ll host No. 3 Kansas on Thursday. … The Rebels are playing their first season under coach Marvin Menzies, hired after Chris Beard left the job after only a week in March to become head coach at Texas Tech.

Oregon: With Oregon’s women ranked No. 25 this past week, it is the first time both the Ducks’ men and women are ranked since January 1995. The women’s team played in the early game Saturday night, defeating Portland State 90-46. … Oregon has been ranked in the Top 25 for 14 straight weeks dating to last season.

LOCAL KID: Payton Pritchard drew cheers from the Portland crowd when he hit the Ducks’ first basket of the night, a 3-pointer. The 6-foot-2 freshman point guard played for West Linn High School just south of Portland. He’s played at the Moda Center before, when West Linn defeated Sheldon in the 2014 Class 6A state championship game.

UP NEXT

UNLV: The Runnin’ Rebels return home to face Southern Illinois on Monday.

Oregon: The Ducks host Fresno State on Tuesday, the team’s final nonconference game before Pac-12 play starts.

Boucher’s double-double leads No. 22 Oregon past Montana

Oregon forward Chris Boucher dunks over Arizona forward Ryan Anderson (12) and center Dusan Ristic (14) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men's tournament Friday, March 11, 2016, in Las Vegas. Oregon won in overtime, 95-89. (AP Photo/John Locher)
AP Photo/John Locher
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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Chris Boucher met the news that he had come within one rebound of being Oregon’s first 20-20 man in 40 seasons with his signature shrug.

“It didn’t matter if I got 20,” he said. “I was just doing my job.”

Boucher had 23 points and a career-high 19 rebounds to lead No. 22 Oregon to an 81-67 victory over Montana on Tuesday night.

Dylan Ennis added 22 points for the Ducks (9-2), who won their seventh straight and extended the nation’s third-longest home winning streak to 32 games. Payton Pritchard had 12 points.

But the night belonged to Boucher. The last Duck to have at least 20 points and 20 rebounds was the late Greg Ballard in a five-overtime game against California in 1977.

“Chris absolutely saved us,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “His 19 rebounds were the difference in the game.

“His activity increases so much when he’s around the basket and rebounds. I couldn’t take him off the floor because I wasn’t sure we’d get a rebound if he wasn’t out there.”

Oregon took control of the game with a 9-0 run midway through the second half for its first double-digit lead. The Ducks shot 51.7 percent (30 of 58) for the game but struggled at the free throw line, hitting just 15 of 25.

Ahmaad Rorie, who played his freshman season at Oregon before transferring in 2015, led the Grizzlies (3-8) with 19 points. Michael Oguine and Walter Wright added 12 each.

Montana missed 10 of its first 11 shots but built a 21-14 lead when Oregon went 7 1/2 minutes without a field goal. The culprit was five turnovers in a span of six possessions by Altman’s count.

“Good teams don’t do that,” he said. “Our guards have got to get it moving better.

“Our ball movement and player movement is just slow. We’re supposed to be pushing it and flowing into something.”

The Ducks had 11 of their 13 turnovers by halftime. They bounced back with a 14-2 run late in the first half and never trailed the rest of the way.

Boucher led Oregon to a 40-34 edge in rebounds. It was his first double-double of the season and 10th of his career.

He also had five of the eight blocked shots by the Ducks, who lead the nation at 8.8 per game.

BIG PICTURE

Montana is off to its worst nonconference start under third-year coach Travis DeCuire. The Grizzlies, who have finished 14-4 in the Big Sky the past two seasons, were picked for second by the media and fourth by the coaches.

Oregon’s search for two solid halves against anything but an overmatched opponent continues with just two games left before the Pac-12 season begins. The defending conference champions continue to bring preseason All-America Dillon Brooks off the bench.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Oregon picked up two spots after falling 20 over the past several weeks from its all-time high of No. 4. The tick upward makes the Ducks’ Pac-12’s opening week all the more intriguing against No. 2 UCLA and No. 24 Southern Cal.

STAT OF THE NIGHT: The Ducks won their 100th game in Matthew Knight Arena. They are 50-2 in nonconference games and 50-11 against Pac-12 foes in their 6-year-old home.

GLUE GUY: Ennis, the sixth-year transfer from Villanova coming off a medical redshirt season, had his best shooting game as a Duck, hitting 7 of 10 overall and 3 of 5 from 3-point range to go with three assists and two blocks.

UP NEXT

Montana gets its last shot at a nonconference road win at UC Riverside on Saturday night. The Grizzlies are 0-5 away from Missoula.

Oregon plays its only game away from Eugene during December when it faces UNLV in Portland on Saturday night. The Ducks host No. 2 UCLA to open Pac-12 play in two weeks.

College Basketball Talk Top 25: Duke is back in the No. 1 spot

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 10: Grayson Allen #3 of the Duke Blue Devils watches as he sinks a 3-point shot against the UNLV Rebels during their game at T-Mobile Arena on December 10, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Duke won 94-45. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images)
Isaac Brekken/Getty Images
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I made some changes in my top 25 this week, and I did it for one reason and one reason only: I think Duke is the best team in college basketball.

And I get it. I might be the only one that ranks Duke No. 1 this week, because there are so many other teams with valid argument to be ranked above Duke.

  • Villanova was No. 1 last week and all they did was beat a city rival and then knock off No. 21 Notre Dame.
  • Kansas has already beaten Duke this season on a neutral court.
  • UCLA owns the most impressive win of the season, picking off Kentucky in Rupp Arena. Duke has beaten Florida, Rhode Island and Michigan State and played Kansas tough.
  • Baylor has the best résumé of anyone to date.

But these rankings are supposed to be used to determine who is the best team in the country, right?

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBC Sports Top 25

And I think that Duke is the best team in college basketball. We all had them there in the preseason, before all of the injuries. Now that they’re getting back to full strength, we’re just going to ignore that fact because Frank Mason II hit a jumper and Villanova hasn’t given us a reason to drop them?

I guess I understand the logic, but it just seems silly to rank someone else No. 1 when you don’t think they’re the best team in the country.

Anyway, here is the NBCSports.com Top 25:

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1. Duke (10-1, Last Week: 4)
2. Villanova (10-0, 1)
3. UCLA (10-0, 2)
4. Kansas (9-1, 3)
5. Kentucky (9-1, 5)
6. North Carolina (10-1, 6)
7. Gonzaga (10-0, 7)
8. Baylor (8-0, 8)
9. Creighton (10-0, 9)
10. Indiana (8-1, 10)
11. Wisconsin (9-2, 11)
12. Louisville (9-1, 12)
13. West Virginia (8-1, 15)
14. Purdue (8-2, 14)
15. South Carolina (8-0, 17)
16. Xavier (8-2, 13)
17. Saint Mary’s (7-1, 14)
18. Virginia (8-1, 18)
19. Butler (9-1, 19)
20. USC (9-0, 21)
21. Notre Dame (9-1, 24)
22. Cincinnati (7-2, 19)
23. Oregon (9-2, NR)
24. Arizona (8-2, NR)
25. Texas A&M (7-2, NR)

DROPPED OUT: No. 21 Florida, No. 23 Syracuse, No. 25 Iowa State
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 23 Oregon, No. 24 Arizona, No. 25 Texas A&M