The Oregon Ducks return to the hardwood seeking a resume building win against the Vanderbilt Commodores.
It had been a long journey, one that had seen Commodore Vanderbilt's navy sail to the opposite end of the continent to hunt down the green and yellow tribe and extinguish them once and for all. Both nations had lost many warriors from the battle before, but the Commodore had turned away the avian attack, though few veterans from the conflict remained. Needing a fresh victory for eyes of legitimacy of this new fleet, the Commodore smiled at the thought of finishing an old adversary.
As the navy reached sight of the rocky Pacific shores, there were no signs of the enemy. Exasperated, the Commodore ordered a land invasion, determined that the tedious sail not be for naught. As they pressed deeper into the stands of Douglas Fir, the thought of turning back was muted by a thirst for blood and treasure. As darkness overcame the forest, the Commodore realized the mistake. But it was much too late, as out from behind the trees came the Men of Oregon.
Unfamiliar with the lay of the land, the Commodore's navy quickly was overwhelmed with a dazzling array of long distance shooting by the newfound avian marksmen. Every attempt at a counter offensive was met with stiff resistance, followed by a quick and ruthless attack. As the victor became apparent, the Commodore tried to sneak an escape, hoping the confusion of the battle and the pitch of the darkness would provide him cover. But as the Commodore turned to sneak away, he found himself face to face with the two largest avian warriors, a pair of 6'11" giants who had made a point to block his lane. His last thought was how he could be so foolish. Then the thoughts ceased, and the Commodore had suffered the same fate as many before him....just another victim....DEEP IN THE WOODS.
After a pair of flawed victories over Big Sky opponents, the Ducks begin the meat of the non-conference schedule with a 7:00 p.m. visit from the Vanderbilt Commodores. The two teams squared off in last season's opener, the Ducks losing a 14 point decision to the Commodores in Nashville. However, both teams have changed a lot since that matchup.
Duck fans know about the changes to Oregon's roster, and we'll see more change as 6'7" transfer Arsalan Kazemi, who averaged a double-double for Rice last season, has won his appeal and is eligible to play for the Ducks starting tonight. Much like Olu Ashaolu last season, Kazemi is an impact player who has the potential to be one of the key players on his team. Eventually, he should be a starter, though it will be interesting to see how Altman uses him tonight.
Changes are even more pronounced for the Commodores than for the Ducks. Vanderbilt lost all five starters from last season's SEC Tournament Champions. John Jenkins? Gone. Festus Ezeli? Gone? Brad Tinsley? Jeffrey Taylor? Lance Goulbourne? Gone. Gone. Gone.
Make no mistake-Vanderbilt has talent. Its just that none of the talent is proven. G Kendren Johnson and F Rod Odom averaged just over 14 mpg each last season, and the highest scoring game for either in the SEC was 7. Johnson is probably the most talented player on the roster, and he had 25 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists in the season opening win against Nicholls State. Freshman G Kevin Bright added 15 and eight rebounds. Both hit three three-pointers. They formed a three guard rotation with point guard Kyle Fuller, who scored 15 points and dished out six assists. Oregon's guards are going to have to play solid defense, but also box out and keep those guys off the boards. Damyean Dotson, Willie Moore, and Dominic Artis have all done an excellent job of the latter. Johnny Loyd worries me a little more in that respect.
In the frontcourt, the Ducks should have a decided advantage, with 4-5 players that can cause major problems for Vanderbilt. 6'11" Josh Henderson has played only sparingly in his career at Vandy (13 minutes against Nicholls State), but figures to get more run in this game due to the necessity of guarding Waverly Austin and Tony Woods. Rod Odom was at the end of the rotation last season, and Shelby Moats played sparingly, but both started against Nicholls State, despite shooting under 40% as forwards last season. Neither provide a consistent scoring or rebounding threat. 6'7" freshman Sheldon Jeter and sophomore James Siakam played against Nicholls State, but neither stood out.
This is a game that Oregon should win, especially if they have any tournament hopes this season. Vanderbilt's guards are talented, but they really aren't more talented than the Ducks' players, and not much more experienced, and Oregon should be able to hold their own. On the flipside, Oregon holds a commanding lead at the forward position, with five frontcourt players (Austin, Woods, Singler, Emory, and Kazemi) better than any frontcourt player on Vanderbilt's roster. That's a significant mismatch, and one that, absent turnovers or shooting woes, should give Oregon a nice home victory. The opposite result would be a big missed opportunity.