The Huskies will need to rebound quickly from their heartbreaking 82-81 loss to the Oregon State Beavers Wednesday, on a buzzer beating shot that shouldn't have counted. The Huskies have had four days to put that loss behind them, and they will need to if they are going to have any chance of knocking off the league leading Oregon Ducks.
Oregon at a glance:
RPI: 4; SOS: 3; BPI: 22; Pac-12 record and standing: 12-4, First; National ranking: 13
The Ducks have been near the top, or atop of the conference for the majority of the season and look poised to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament come March. They are currently 12-4 in conference play, good for first in the league, and 22-6 overall Some may have thought the Ducks would take slight step back this year due to the departure of league MVP Joseph Young, but that just hasn't happened. On the contrary, the Ducks are having their best season yet under sixth year head coach Dana Altman, thanks in large part to roster continuity. The Ducks, who have been known for quite a bit roster turnover during Altman's tenure, have their second, third, and fourth highest scorers from last season back this year. They have supplemented their returning players nicely with a combination of high school talent in Tyler Dorsey, and junior college talent in Chris Boucher. The Ducks are 16-1 at home this season; with their lone loss coming to UNLV all the way back in December. Going into Eugene and knocking off the Ducks will be a tall task for the Huskies, to say the least.
Three Ducks to watch
1. Dillon Brooks
When I think of the Ducks, the first player that comes to mind is Dillion Brooks, and for good reason. The sophomore is leading the team in scoring (17.1), is second in rebounding (5.8) and is also dishing out a team high 3.1 assists per game. He is shooting 48% from the field this season, up from 45% last season. However, he has seen his three point percentage drop quite a bit this season, down three percent, from 33% to 30%. Despite his low percentage, he is shooting nearly three three-pointers a game. Brooks is also bit of a chucker from the games I've seen so far. The Ducks, much like the Huskies, play an up-tempo, fast paced game and take quick shots, and Brooks seems to have a green light to take any shot he wants. He can get into shooting slumps at times, and like many great scorers, will look to shoots his way out of it. He is an elite pull-up jump shooter, and also uses his 6'5" 205 pound frame to get to the rim well. He is one of the best pure scorers in the Pac-12 and will be a tough matchup for the Dawgs tonight.
2. Elgin Cook
Cook is second in scoring for the Ducks (13.8) but has seen his efficiency drop a bit this season. While his scoring is up from 13.0 to 13.8 this season, his field goal percentage is down seven percent, from 52% last season to 46% this season. Though Cook has seen his field goal percentage drop, he has seen his three-point percentage increase from 25% to 34% this season. Though he is still just an average three-point shooter, Cook has at least improved to the point where teams have to semi-respect him from deep, which is an improvement from years past. Despite the fact that he isn't as efficient as he has been, he is still more than capable of filling it up. Cook has great athleticism and will not hesitate to put opposing defenders on posters. He seems most comfortable when he is putting his head down and attacking the rim, but is also capable of knocking down an occasional mid-range jump shot, and has some good footwork in the post as well.
3. Chris Boucher
This might seem like a slight snub to not include Tyler Dorsey. After all, Dorsey is averaging 13.2 points per game, and is in the conversation for freshman of the year. However, as good as Dorsey has been, Boucher may be the most important player on this Ducks team, sans Brooks. The 6'`10" junior is averaging 12.6 points per game and is also pulling down a team high 7.6 rebounds. Despite the fact that he is only 200 pounds, Boucher is able to use his incredible length and solid athleticism to score in the paint, and is also a capable three-point shooter, shooting 36% from behind the arc. However, the Canadian makes his mark on the defensive end. He is averaging 3.3 blocks per contest, which is good enough for second in the country. He has an incredible knack for blocking shots, and may be the most talented shot blocker I have ever seen, not including Robert Upshaw. Make no mistake, Boucher's presence makes all the difference for the Ducks on the defensive end, as he alters nearly every shot that is taken at the rim.
In a vacuum, I really like this match up for the Huskies. They play a similar style to the Huskies, and don't have any big bruising big men that can take advantage of the Dawgs lack of strength inside. I'd much rather see the Huskies play Oregon than Arizona or Utah. But basketball is not played in a vacuum. Te fact is, the second half of the season has been really tough for the Huskies who are coming off their most heartbreaking loss yet.This team has been tough as nails this season, but I really expect the recent string of close losses, as well as the heart break in Corvaliss to be hanging over their heads a bit tonight. I think the wheels fall off a bit in this one. Oregon 92, Washington 79