BLOG EXCHANGE WITH ADDICTED TO QUACKI was sitting with friends at Staples last year watching Oregon lose to our sturdy Golden Bears in double OT. The discussion topic at halftime was what would happen if Oregon ever got its act together - played defense, shared the basketball, and stopped fighting amongst themselves (and with their opponents).
Now we know the answer to that question. To get a better handle on a team that perhaps is the biggest surprise in all of college basketball, we exchanged Q's and A's with fellow blogger Addicted to Quack. Our answers to David's Q's will be up at his site at some point.
Tightwad Hill: Oregon didn't add that much (outside of Tajuan Porter) and Hairston's been in and out of the lineup. So why are the Ducks leading the conference?
Addicted to Quack: Teamwork and poise. I think the biggest problems with the Ducks last year were that they didn't play as a team, and they lost a lot of close games (I believe 13 games by seven points or less). This year, they are playing as a team and winning those games.
One big thing that this team did was went to the Bahamas in September for a preseason tournament, and apparently really got a chance to bond and come together as a team, which they really didn't do last year. They trust each other more, so you don't see any issues as far a sharing the ball. It doesn't matter who gets the points, so long as the Ducks get the W. Finally, the experience of all the close losses last year has made them poised in the clutch. They don't panic, they know that they are going to get a good shot. The talent was always there, it was just about playing smart team basketball.
Tightwad Hill: Ernie Kent seems to have gone from dead man walking to the toast of Eugene. Is there any scenario where he wouldn't be back next year - or has this incredible start secured his return?
Addicted to Quack: Unless he decided to bolt for a better job, unlikely seeing as he is a Duck alum, there is no way he is not back next year. But an issue to look out for in the future is that the Ducks need Phil Knight to fund a new basketball arena, and, reportedly, he doesn't like Kent. With Oregon looking for a new AD (that will supposedly canoodle with Knight more than Bill Moos did), Kent's long term future is unknown at this point. But he deserves a lot of credit for this year.
Tightwad Hill: How far can the Ducks go? We picked them fourth to start the season, but they look like a realistic Sweet 16 or even Elite 8 team.
Addicted to Quack: Why can't Oregon go all the way? I mean, the year to compare this to is 2001-02. The Ducks came out of nowhere to win the conference and go to the elite eight. This is a similar team. Look at the parallels of the careers of Freddie Jones and Aaron Brooks. That team came out of nowhere to make a deep tourney run. No reason to think that this team can't as well.
Tightwad Hill: Any match-ups with Cal that make you nervous as a Duck fan? Conversely, which matchups do you like?
Addicted to Quack: Well, I'm just happy that we don't have to play DeVon Hardin. Ryan Anderson is a very good player, but seems to be the only big, and that is good for the Ducks. Wilkes and Ubaka are good players that are potent threats, but I don't see any individual matchups that I don't think the Ducks have the edge in. Whether its (Maarty) Leunen vs. Anderson, Wilkes vs. (Aaron) Brooks (left), etc., I just think the Ducks are better. If Porter guards Ubaka, that could be interesting, as I think Ubaka could post him up a bit. Cal is a decent team, but Oregon just has more talent.
Tightwad Hill: Your prediction for the gameAddicted to Quack: I predict a Duck win, of course. Stanford was our largest margin in a conference game, and we won by seven. I see no reason why this one won't be close, either. Ducks by six.
Our thanks to David, who is justifiably loving this season, and our best wishes for a good, injury-free game. Our prediction will be up tomorrow.