I got my first extended look at Oregon basketball today against UT – San Antonio. The Ducks beat the Roadrunners 95-78 in a rather plain game without much drama or suspense. However, a few things stood out to me.
1. The Ducks are as athletic as they’ve been in quite a few years.
For several years, the only time the Ducks had a physical advantage athletically was when they played teams like UT – San Antonio. However, it was just a slight advantage. Tonight was different. They completely manhandled the Roadrunners in every way.
2. The Ducks are big.
Centers Tony Woods and Waverly Austin are both 6’11” with forwards Arsalan Kazemi at 6’7,” EJ Singler at 6’6” and Carlos Emory at 6’5.” Once the football season is over and 6’8” Arik Armstead joins the basketball team, they’ll have one of the bigger front courts in the conference. To go with their athleticism, that’s a good combination to have.
3. Arsalan Kazemi is very good.
He’s a bit raw offensively but is outstanding on the defensive end. He blocked several shots today by not only out-hopping the opponent but knowing where to go at the right time. He came from the help-side several times to surprise his opponent and deny a basket. That type of defense can really help out.
4. This might be a tournament or bust year.
The Ducks haven’t been to the dance since 2008. And that ended in a quick loss to Missouri in the first round. However, in 2007, the Ducks made it all the way to the Elite Eight behind Aaron Brooks. The Ducks don’t have anybody of Brooks’ talent; however, they are probably deeper all around than that team was – anything less than a berth in the NCAA tourney would be a disappointment, in my opinion.
5. This is a good trajectory that Head Coach Dana Altman has the Ducks on.
In 2009-10, the year before Altman was hired, the Ducks went 16-16 overall and 7-11 in the PAC12. They missed all postseason tournaments. In Altman’s first year (2010-11), Oregon went 21-18 overall but were still 7-11 in the PAC12. However, the 21 wins earned the Ducks a berth in the CBI tournament that they went on to win the championship (against Altman’s former school Creighton ironically enough). In 11-12, the Ducks improved greatly as they went 24-10 overall and won 13 PAC games and only lost five. It was quite a turnaround. The Ducks narrowly missed the NCAA tournament by a few spots but ended up in the NIT. The Ducks won their first two games but ultimately fell to Washington. Regardless, all signs are point up and Dominic Artis, Arik Armstead and Ben Carter all freshmen, it should continue going forward.