Conference play begins in Pac-12


The Oregon Ducks won three games in three straight days against NC Central, Prairie View A&M, and Stephen F. Austin after imploding against Virginia in an unacceptable loss. While it’s nice to bounce back, all three of those teams are poor and really never stood a chance against the Ducks. The next four games will be very telling for Oregon, as the Ducks will face Washington State tomorrow, Washington on New Year’s Eve, and then face Pac-12 “heavyweights” Stanford and California.

The Cougars and Huskies are important games for Oregon, because all three teams are at about the same level right now. Sure the Huskies are struggling, but they have talent in players like Tony Wroten. They need to play more consistent basketball, and there isn’t much time for a turnaround in Washington. The Cougars, on the other hand, are 8-4 and just one game back from the 9-3 Ducks. They aren’t a very good team by any means and have beaten up on poor opponents, but it is important for the Ducks to start out conference play on the right foot. The teams they have defeated haven’t been world-beaters this season either, which makes tomorrow’s game important.

Statistically speaking, there isn’t anything special about this bunch, as they aren’t in the top 140 in points per game, assists per game, rebounds per game, or field goal percentage. The team averages just 34.7 boards per game, and that’s 207th in the country. E.J. Singler and Olu Ashaolu both lead the team with 4.8 and 4.4 rebounds per game respectively.

Rebounds per game is an important statistic to look at, because that’s something that the Stanford Cardinal will certainly exploit in their tilt on January 5th. Stanford is leading the Pac-12 against all the odds, but they have also played against easy competition and are due for regression sometime soon. Still, they are 60th in the country in rebounds per game with 38.1 and are led by Josh Owens and Josh Huestis. The Joshes are averaging a combined 10.7 RPG, and Owens also leads the team with 12.7 points per contest.

The Golden Bears sit at 10-3 and are jockeying for the first spot with Stanford and Oregon State (10-2). The Beavers have had arguably the easiest schedule this season, and Cal should be the best team in the conference soon. The Bears are 18th in the nation in Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency rankings and are definitely playing the best ball of any team in Pac-12. They play stifling defense and are ranked as the 17th best defensive team at kenpom.com. They certainly have the talent with players like Allen Crabbe and Jorge Gutierrez, but California was owned by No. 23 UNLV in an 85-68 blowout on Festivus.

Most of the teams in the conference have destroyed weaker opponents and have mightily struggled against quality foes, so California is definitely more than vulnerable heading into this match-up. They do have the advantage in the advanced metrics (Oregon is ranked 116th), but anybody can win in this weakened version of the Pac-12. I have confidence in coach Dana Altman, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Oregon knocked off Stanford and California to push a team in the middle of the pack to one of the conference “heavyweights” (seeing as there are no truly good teams in the conference).

I would like to add that I am the new lead editor here at Autzen Zoo, and I am looking forward to interacting with the readers and writing about the Ducks. I have written for a couple of other blogs around FanSided, and I am grateful for this opportunity to cover the Ducks.

You can follow me on Twitter @SorianoJoe and Autzen Zoo @Autzen_Zoo.

Tags: Allen Crabbe California Golden Bears Dana Altman E.J. Singler Jorge Gutierrez Josh Huestis Josh Owens NC Central Olu Ashaolu Prairie View A&M Stanford Cardinal Stephen F. Austin Tony Wroten Washington Huskies Washington State Cougars