MBB Game 6 Preview and Open Thread: Oregon at Brigham Young

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 11: Garrett Sim #3 of the Oregon Ducks moves the ball as Isaiah Thomas #2 of the Washington Huskies attempts to steal it from behind in the second half in the semifinals of the 2011 Pacific Life Pac-10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Center on March 11, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Oregon Ducks (4-1) at BYU Cougars (5-2)

2:00 PT :: EnergySolutions Arena :: Salt Lake City

TV: ESPNU/ESPN3

KenPom Rankings :: BYU 22 :: Oregon 68

KenPom Prediction :: BYU 78-70

When Oregon's schedule came out, four non-conference games stood out as games where the outcome was in doubt: at Vanderbilt, at Nebraska, at BYU, and Virginia. I figured that a 2-2 record in those games--guaranteeing a road win--as well as a top five finish in the PAC would be enough to put the Ducks back into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four seasons. However, as the Pac-12 drops non-conference games like Will Murphy drops screen passes, 2-2 in those four games is not a prospect that I feel comfortable with. The struggles in the UTEP game, where old issues of turnovers and poor box outs, reared their ugly heads showed that this team isn't as far along as I thought they were, despite winning in a tough environment at Nebraska. That said, Jimmer Fredette isn't walking through that door for the Cougars, and this remains a very winnable game for Oregon, and a victory would affirm that visions of March Madness doesn't present an unreasonable goal.

Brigham Young won't have it raucous home crowd behind it, being in the Utah Jazz' home arena in Salt Lake City rather than in Provo, but it will definitely be a BYU crowd. The Cougars have a very similar resume to the Ducks thus far, taking down a Nevada team (that beat Washington last night), but with the rest of their wins being unimpressive: Prairie View, Longwood, NAU, BYU-Hawaii, while losing to two quality teams in Utah State and Wisconsin.

The first thing that stands out about BYU is that they shoot the ball well--really well. Their top four scorers all shoot over 54%. They rank 12th in the country in FG% at .512, but their EFG% is even better at .589, ranking them 7th in all the land. Its not just from the inside that they score well, as their 3PT percentage is .414, and they move the ball well, ranking 10 in the nation in assists. BYU is an extremely efficient offensive team, but they have two weaknesses: they will turn the ball over (about 20% of possessions), and they don't get to the line much. It will be a big test for the Oregon defense, which not only hasn't been getting turnovers at anywhere near the rate they did last season, but really struggled with rotations and keeping the ball in front of them against UTEP.

BYU is led by 6'9" senior Noah Hartsock, a 6'9" forward who is averaging 16 points per game on only 10 field goal attempts. He's hitting nearly 58% of his shots, and that's not just due to range, as he's had no problems going out to the three point line. Brandon Davies also goes 6'9" and hits 54% of his shots while going for 13 a game, and while not the three point shooter tha that Hartsock is, he's much more of your prototypical post, and is the one BYU player that gets to the line. The 6'5" Charles Abouo is actually their leading rebounder, but also hits 57% from three, and 6'6" Brock Zylstra went off for 23 last game. Our posts are going to have a major challenge on their hands, but they have the potential, which is more than we can say for the Ducks in a long, long time.

Defensively, we can expect BYU to run a man-to-man. They don't take a lot of chances or force a lot of turnovers, but they stay in front of you and force you to take a shot with a man in your face. They also don't foul a lot, so its difficult to get extra points at the free throw line. Oregon has the extra disadvantage of only having three guards in this game after the departures of Jabari Brown and Bruce Barron. Devoe Joseph will become eligible for the Fresno State game next Saturday.

FOUR FACTORS PREVIEW:

eFG%: BYU 58.9 (7), Oregon 53.7 (36)

Oregon has actually been an excellent shooting team this season, and the execution of the inside-out game for Oregon has led to a lot of easy shots inside, as well as wide open three-pointers. That said, BYU is in another world, and execute nearly to perfection.

Turnover %: BYU 20.7 (136) Oregon 21.7 (171)

I thought Oregon's turnover problems were behind them, after great performances against SE Missouri State and Nebraska. Then Oregon didn't meet a turnover they didn't like against UTEP. The good news for the Ducks is that BYU turns the ball over a lot as well, but not to the extent that Oregon does.

Offensive Rebound %: BYU 32.5 (175), Oregon 28.6 (275)

Much like the turnovers, I thought the problems with giving up offensive rebounds were largely behind us, until it became a huge issue vs. UTEP. BYU isn't a team that normally makes people pay, but they have the size, and if Oregon doesn't put out a better effort than last game, it could get ugly.

Free Throw Rate: Oregon 53.1 (16), BYU 31.5 (254)

Bet you didn't know that the Ducks were one of the very best in the country at getting to the line this season? That said, BYU doesn't foul a lot on defense. Meanwhile this has been the biggest (only?) offensive weakness for the Cougars.

BYU has the advantage in three of the four factors. It will take a very strong game by Oregon to win.

KEYS TO THE GAME:

  • It has to be a good shooting night -- A bad shooting game by BYU is still a decent one for anyone else. Oregon has to shoot well in this one to win.
  • Keep the turnovers down -- BYU isn't a team that normally forces a lot of turnovers, but, then again, neither was UTEP. If BYU is given a lot of extra possessions with the way they shoot the ball, it could have the potential to get ugly.
  • Get to the foul line -- Oregon is one of the best in the country at this, while BYU doesn't foul a lot. But they also haven't faced a lot of teams that can do what we can, and throw the bodies that we can inside. If we can get to the line, and get Hartsock or Davies in foul trouble, it makes an easier road for us.

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