Dana Altman and the 13th ranked Oregon Basketball squad travel to New York City for the annual 2K Classic, where they’ll open up with the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Tonight, the undefeated (2-0 undefeated, but still) Oregon Ducks take on the also 2-0 Fighting Fran McCaffery’s in the second of two games tonight in the historic Madison Square Garden. Iowa may not have the firepower to make the NCAA Tournament, but they’re a wily bunch and not to be taken lightly by the precocious Ducks’ squad. Here are some things to watch for in tonight’s matchup.
1. Is the defense legit?
Through their first two games, the Oregon Basketball team has been stellar on defense. I would say it’s surprising, but I kind of predicted we’d be awesome on defense. According to sports-reference.com, Oregon’s scoring defense, which has allowed just 52 points per game, is 10th in the country. Is this number sustainable? Hell no. But do we have a committee of long-armed athletic wings and shot-blocking mill, Bol Bol, for opponents to roll their eyes at every time down the court? We do indeed. Bol’s arms have the diameter of a Ferris Wheel and thus far he’s put them to work. The caveat, as per usual only two games into the season, is that we haven’t played a real team yet–condolences to Portland State and Eastern Washington. If Bol’s spiking Tyler Cook dunks into the floor and Iowa has less than 30 points at halftime, I’ll have my answer. Vice versa: if Bol and the other newbies are screaming at each other like Draymond and KD while Jordan Bohannon serenades them with three-pointers, I’ll also have my answer.
2. What is the crunch-time lineup?
For most of the boring take-artist college basketball media, this slot would be reserved for the classic “Who is going to start tonight” question. And since Altman has used two separate starting fives consisting of seven different players, it might be an interesting question. But, I don’t care who starts. It doesn’t matter. What matter is who plays at the end of the game when it’s tight and we need guys to step up. Crunch time. Who plays when it matters most? Tonight we may not get to see the crunch-time lineup if we’re decently ahead as I expect. But if we do, who are the guys? Without Louis King, I’d roll out a fivesome of Pritchard-Amin-Bailey Jr.-White-Bol with Wooten on deck. That lineup should thrive in transition due to its athleticism but also thrive in slow-it-down, grind-it-out scenarios because of its stellar defensive prowess and big-shot capabilities of Pritchard. I don’t know who Dana Altman would go with, but that’s my guess. It will be interesting to see if/when the time comes this weekend when our backs are against to wall who the five are on the court.
3. Which role player makes a statement this weekend?
Without their 5-star wing, Louis King, Oregon’s unquestioned offensive leaders have been Pritchard, Bol Bol, and Paul White. That said, someone is bound to have a big game in his absence that’s a little off the reservation. The type of guy that makes Dicky V say “Oh man (so and so’s name)! Where did this kid come from! What a game by him! 21 points!” The big-time early-season performance no one sees coming and even surprises the coaches. Maybe Will Richardson catches fire or Victor Bailey puts it all together and explodes for 25. Who knows? I want to see one of those “holy s–t, this kid’s a star” type performances like Leonardo DiCaprio had in Titanic.