Oregon Basketball: Ducks Remain Red Hot and Continue Pac-12 Dominance
by Bryan Kalbrosky
Perhaps the most telling moment for No. 12 Oregon’s defeat of No. 5 Oklahoma State was when, in an attempt to put the Ducks at the free throw line, Oregon guard Jonathan Loyd raced around the team as if he were practicing a cone sprinting exercise.
No more than thirty seconds later, teammate Damyean Dotson followed suit and did the exact same thing: his quickness made Oklahoma State look not only sluggish in comparison, but wildly foolish and ill-prepared as well.
Oregon plays like one of the fastest team in the nation. When the team came out of the gates fighting, they took early control of the March Madness matchup. Even the folks over at Nike Fuel noticed the impassioned play.
“Ducks got after it from the opening tip,” tweeted Nike Fuel.
The Oregon Ducks continued to control the tempo as the game went on, and the No. 12 Oregon Ducks went on to defeat the No. 5 Oklahoma State Cowboys in a convincing victory.
According to ESPN States & Info, the Oregon victory was the first time the Ducks had ever beaten a higher seen in the NCAA Tournament. But fans across the nation affirm that this was hardly an “upset” for the University of Oregon. I learned that if you even tweet the word, you would hear an earful from those who confirm that Oregon was indeed a better and more complete team than Oklahoma State in this tournament.
With the return of Dominic Artis, the team has finally been restored to order. In his absence, the tempo and offensive playmaking began to suffer. In his health, the team looked alive and thriving.
“Mr. Artis is playing like he’s been here before,” tweeted former Oregon star Aaron Brooks, who also had been there before having taken the Oregon Ducks to the Elite Eight in 2007.
The offensive speed was back on track with Artis, and with 13 points and 4 steals he looked limitless. With his presence, the future of the program looked bright even with E.J. Singler, Arsalan Kazemi, Carlos Emory and Tony Woods graduating at the end of the season.
“We wanted to be aggressive on the boards, we wanted to be aggressive defensively and we wanted to be aggressive offensively,” coach Dana Altman told CBS. “I thought our guys did a great job of that.”
Artis set the tone, as Oregon acts as a developing program when they’re on the court together. By and large, this means that “knowing your role” plays a pivotal role in the cohesion of their offensive and defensive units. For Oregon, that means finding senior E.J. Singler for the open three. It means Tony Woods coming up with the pivotal and monstrous block. It means diversifying the scoring threats and allowing five players to score eight or more points in the game.
It also means continuing to get in the head of the opponent via a quick and consistent offensive tempo. If the Oregon team can take advantage of the opportunities created by the extreme defensive hustle and turnover creation, the Ducks will continue to thrive.
The most helpful aid for Oregon, however, was their unique ability to create opportunity via the art of the offensive rebound. Oregon pulled in 14, whereas Oklahoma State pulled in only four, two fewer than Oregon senior Arsalan Kazemi who recorded six in the game.
When Arsalan Kazemi comes prepared to play, Oregon looks nearly unbeatable.
In their first March Madness game since 2008, Kazemi was undoubtedly here to play. Kazemi recorded 17 total rebounds, one short of his career high, and continued a unique athleticism that could help solidify an opportunity at a potential NBA career. He will need to continue his incredible performance for Oregon to continue their magical run.
Oregon and Cal will both play in San Jose on Saturday afternoon.
In conjunction with the California Berkeley student section (“The Bench”) and the Oregon Pit Crew student section, the stands will be filled with a sea of gold and yellow to represent the Pac-12 conference and their collective rooting interest.
The No. 12 Oregon Ducks will play No. 4 St. Louis Billikens on Saturday at 4:10 PM. St. Louis averages only 32.8 rebounds per game (251st in nation), whereas Oregon averages 37.4 (52nd in nation).
If Kazemi can stay strong and play with outstanding purpose, Oregon could easily advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
(Photos: Alex McDougall/Emerald)