How good is Oregon? Or, put another way, how bad are the Ducks? Is the five-loss Pac-10 start a product of their schedule or is this a team that will struggle all year with on-court deficiencies and off-court chemistry? Read on.
• Let's see. After Thursday night's win at McArthur Court, the Husky players basically called out the Oregon fans, saying the venerable old building wasn't a scary place anymore. Then this morning, the Oregonian's columnist, John Canzano, basically comes out and says Ernie Kent's job is hanging by a thread, with the players holding the scissors. So don't you think there would be two extra-motivated groups at Mac Court this morning?
The fans should be ready to rumble, trying to prove this place is hell on opposing teams, just like it's always been. Then the Oregon players, if they respect Kent at all, should be ready to explode. Post a big win today and their coach's status is secured at least for a while. But there is the other side of that coin. Maybe some of the older guys, the Tajuan Porters – he of the run in with Kent earlier – and the Odia Churchills would like to see Kent cut off at the knees. Who knows? If that's the case, then maybe the Ducks mail one in and the fans, disappointed in their effort, sit on their hands for the last three-quarters of the game.
• OK, there are some real basketball questions to answer. The biggest one is how well will the Ducks shoot? Last season Maarty Leunen really hurt the Cougars from outside, stretching Aron Baynes and Robbie Cowgill away from the basket. This year's Oregon team, though athletic as all get out, doesn't have a big like that. Joevan Catron (shown being hounded by Robbie Cowgill last year in Christopher Anderson's photo) is a load, but he's not going to kill you from beyond the arc (3 of 11 this year). Either is Michael Dunigan. So the WSU bigs can close out slower, protecting the rim more and allowing the guards to worry less about penetration. So the Ducks should have more 3-pointers with hands in their face than last year.
And that shooting may just decide it. The Cougars should get their looks – if they take care of the ball, something that applies to UO as well. The Oregon guards will try to pick your pocket, get into passing lanes, turn you over. But that opens opportunities for penetration, for post looks, for good shots. ... One last thing. The Ducks are one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the Pac-10. Long shots, long rebounds and they run those down. WSU did a poor job of containing OSU on Thursday night, so it's a point of emphasis today. Let's see how the Cougars do.
• That's it for this morning. We'll be back at halftime. Till then ...