by Paul Casey Gotham
Setting: McArthur Court on the University of Oregon campus in Eugen, Oregon is the scene for today’s matchup between #12 UCLA (11-2 overall/ 1-0 conference) and Oregon (6-7 overall / 0-1 conference).
Flashback: UCLA leads the all-time series 79-25 and is 31-19 in Eugene. The Bruins have won their last seven including a 69-46 PAC-10 opener over Oregon State. The Ducks lost their conference opener to Southern Cal 83-62.
Last year the Bruins survived 80-75 on the Duck pond in Eugene. Some changes have taken place since then – Kevin Love (who spurned Oregon’s recruiting advances despite his father playing for Oregon in the 70s) and Russell Westbrook are now earning paychecks in the NBA.
It could be hard to imagine that just two years ago the Ducks were down three in the Regional final to Florida with less than a minute remaining.
Tone: It is kind of ironic when considering the stat lines: UCLA has a field goal percentage of 49.8 while scoring 76.6 ppg – Oregon hits at a rate of 41.4% and scores 73.8 per game. UCLA hits 35.9% from behind the arc. Oregon cans 36.6% from long range. UCLA drops 64.6 of their free throws while Oregon goes for 67.1%.
Both squads grab 38 boards per game, make nine steals, and have 3.5 blocks per game.
Despite the similarities in numbers Oregon has five more losses.
Theme: Can familiarity which breeds contempt also lead to an upset? UCLA’s two losses (Michigan and Texas) represent the only challenges on the Bruin schedeule.
Oregon has seven losses, but they haven’t been hiding from anyone. The Ducks have dropped decisions to UNC, Texas, Utah, St. Mary’s (earned an at-large bid last year), and San Diego.
Characters (players) to watch: the game pits point guards, Darren Collison and Tajuan Porter, against each other. Porter is the last remaining starter from that Duck team that came one win from the Final Four in ’07. Collison has made the Final Four every year of his career.
Both average 14 ppg. Collison dishes out 5 assists; Porter hands out two. Both grab two boards. Collison has the advantage in shooting percentage (56.2 to 37.9 from the field including 50% to 36.6% from deep), but Porter is required to carry more of the scoring load for the Ducks.
Conflict: Collison and the Bruins have to keep Porter in check. The senior from Detroit is due for a break out. Today would be fitting at home.
Michael Dunigan, Garrett Sim, and LeKendric Longmire all average double digit points for the Ducks. Ernie Kent will need each of his troops to give a maximum output.
Collison will need Josh Shipp and Jrue Holiday to contribute. The Bruins have ten players averaging double digit minutes per game.
Resolution: Oregon will need to prove they can hang with UCLA’s depth.