The Oregon Ducks basketball team landed at number 5 on the NCAA preseason AP Top 25. Since then, they have stumbled out of the gate. Oregon dropped their second game of the year to Baylor, which in return dropped them to number 13 in rankings. After the loss, they bounced back with a 22 point win over Valparaiso. Then last year’s leading scorer, Dillon Brooks, returned to the lineup following offseason foot surgery – just in time for a loss to another unranked team in Georgetown. The most recent loss has caused them to slip down to number 23.
At the time, their loss to an unranked Baylor looked like a huge upset. The Baylor Bears, however, have shown that they are an outstanding team who have gotten off to a great start. They now have quality wins over top 25 ranked teams Oregon, Michigan State and Louisville. Let’s not discredit their win over VCU, who has been a quality program throughout recent years as well. Baylor is now 6-0 and have climbed up to number 9 ranking. They play great interior defense, they know how to block without fouling, and shot the ball well.
Dillon Brooks returned to the lineup after the win over Valparaiso. Brooks only played 13 minutes as Oregon continues to work him back into game shape. In 3 games back in the lineup, he has yet to play 20 minutes or more. As a starter last season he was Oregon’s leading scorer with 16.7 PPG. Oregon has gone small in his absence, but they need to get him healthy and back into the starting lineup if they’re going to make a move up the rankings.
Jordan Bell and Chris Boucher have been a great duo on the defensive side, averaging 3 blocks a piece per game. Bell, a bench player a year ago, has been a key defensive player in Oregon’s starting lineup this season averaging 8.1 RPG, 2.86 BPG. Boucher is a returning starter who has improved his game. He averages 7 RPG and 3.26 BPG. He’s been more aggressive on the offensive end and has improved his FG percentages.
What was expected to be an exciting season for Oregon basketball has turned out to be a disappointing one early on. Outside of Bell and Boucher, the Ducks haven’t been playing well. Their scoring is down from 78.8 PPG a year ago to 70.4 this season. A big reason for that is their 3-point shooting. The Ducks are not shooting the ball well. They weren’t a great 3-point shooting team last year, but they have been even worse this season. Last year they shot an okay 35% from deep, this year they have dropped to an atrocious 30% from beyond the arc.
The Ducks have to get better if they’re going to compete with Arizona or UCLA for the Pac-12 title. As the number 5 ranked team in the nation to start the season, this was the expectation. 4 weeks in and the Ducks have people thinking whether they should even be ranked at all. The day they dropped to the 23rd ranked team, they narrowly sneaked one by Boise State at home. Watching that game didn’t prove to me that they belonged in the top-25, but I liked their fight down the stretch to close things out. They can’t get behind like that against good teams, especially with their poor shooting, teams like UCLA (shooting 45% from long range this season) will bury them.
Luckily for the Ducks, they will be home for the rest of the calendar year. 9 straight home games until they head to Washington for a matchup against star freshman guard Markelle Fultz and the Huskies on January 4, 2017. Maybe, just maybe, Oregon can get their groove back. It all starts with the health of Dillon Brooks. He’s their best scorer. Once he’s ready to compete at a high level, I expect everything else to fall in place and the Ducks will make a run moving back up the rankings. They have too much talent to sink.