Well, football season is over. I am sure there will be plenty of wrangling and gnashing of teeth by others to explain what happened in the Rose Bowl. I have to be honest and say that loss hurts. I wanted badly to beat Ohio State and end the long drought of Rose Bowl victories, but it was not to be. Ohio State played a great game and deserved to win. So, for me the season is over. Now I can move on to my first true love, college basketball.
I DVR'd both of the Duck games this weekend knowing I was going to need to watch something else after the Rose Bowl. There is nothing better than a road victory over the huskies to help take away the sting of a painful bowl loss. Hey husky trolls, how did that ass whooping feel? I think Gorbachav has something he would like to chant for you.
When you start to talk about the Ducks basketball team you first have to address the 800lb Gorilla sitting in the corner, and that is how you feel about Ernie Kent. I will be candid, I have never been a huge supporter of EK. Kent's teams lack consistency. They lack the ability to grow, learn, develop and play consistently. EK is able to recruit like no one at Oregon ever has. His main problem has always been taking that raw undeveloped talent and consistently turning it into a team.
I feel it's because of his system, or lack thereof. He's never had a true system that he can take the talent he brings here and plug the players into. If you are honest about EK's system you would say it has always been a little controlled chaos. Now that type of system can lead to some great things (as we have seen with some improbable Pac 10 Tourney, NIT Tourney and NCAA Tourney runs). When you play like that you can catch lightning in a bottle and really make some good things happen. However, it does not lend itself to sustained success.
Ok, so that is how I feel about Ernie. I don't think that is going to change anytime soon. I also believe that the Admin noticed it too and that is why they brought in Mike Dunlap. All you need to know about Dunlap can be learned by looking at what he did at Arizona the last couple of years. Nic Wise and Jerryd Bayless are two PG who have developed under Dunlap's system. Oh, and there was a pretty good big man by the name of Jordan Hill (now in the NBA) who benefited from his tutelage. I've been skeptical of whether or not bringing in Dunlap was a good or bad thing. I think it put Kent in a no win situation. If the team didn't progress, Ernie was going to be gone no matter what. If the team made some decent improvements many people (myself obviously included) would attribute it to Dunlap, and not Kent.
Fast forward to the last two games against WSU and UW. I have not gotten to watch a lot of the games this year so far (thanks Admin and Comcast for that), so this was my first real ability to see how this team had changed. Here are some of my initial reactions:
1. The run and gun system has been tempered tremendously. Oregon has not gone away from pushing the ball completely, but they are much more patient then I have seen in a long time. Oregon will push the tempo to try and take advantage of their athletic abilities and get easy buckets in transition, but if the first shot isn't there (and this year the first shot ISN'T a contested 3 pointer) they will pull it back and run their secondary break.
2. Oregon's half court offense is built around getting the ball inside and not jacking up 3's consistently. Dunigan is really starting to come into his own and has developed a couple of really nice moves offensively. Even more so the guards and wings are really looking for him early in the game. This is getting the opponents big men into foul trouble or it's making them a little hesitant to help off Dunigan when the second part of Oregon's half court offense takes hold.
3. Oregon is driving to the hoop. Armstead is a beast. Yes, I have a new man crush on Malcolm Armstead. He's really doing a lot of great things with the ball in his hands. He's allowed Porter to become the Porter of old. He gets in the lane and draws fouls, but more importantly is able to finish around the rim. It's not just him though. Wilson, Williams, and Longmire are looking to get to the basket and make things happen.
4. Lastly, Oregon's playing defense. No, Tajuan Porter still isn't playing defense, but as a team Oregon is playing some good defense. Their switching things up in the half court as well as the full court defensively. Jamil Wilson is turning into a lock down defender. Look for Oregon to consistently put him on the other team's best player. EJ Singler plays great help side defense and Dunigan finally learned that he is 6'10" and can block shots every once in a while.
All in all, I think Oregon finally has a coach that can consistently teach and develop the fundamentals. A lot of what I have seen from Arizona the last couple of years in now being translated into Oregon's players and game plan. This doesn't mean that Ernie is off the hot seat yet, or that it is all going to be rosy sunshine and cherry blossoms for the Oregon's men's basketball team. It does however show that a number of things this team has lacked are now consistently starting to become evident.