Jacksonville State Gamecocks (3-1) at Oregon Ducks (3-0)
8:00 PT :: Matthew Knight Arena
TV :: Pac-12 Networks
The first two games of the season, wins against Northern Arizona and Portland St., provided a lot of question marks about the Oregon basketball team. Both seen as mediocre Big Sky squads, Northern Arizona tested the Ducks until the very end and, while Oregon built a 20 point first half lead on Portland State, Oregon did everything they could to give it back in the second half. So Duck fans were anxious to see how the team would respond against a Vanderbilt team that, while a shell of the squad they had last season, still looked to have talent on the roster. The answer was a dominating performance on both sides of the ball, scoring 74 points on 45% shooting while holding Vanderbilt to 34% and forcing 18 turnovers. It was one of the more complete performances we've seen during the Dana Altman era, and certainly the best this early in a season.
Jacksonville State enters the contest at 3-1, with victories over Reinhardt, Eastern Michigan, and Alabama A&M, the lone loss coming on Saturday to the Ducks' next opponent, UNLV. The Gamecocks scored only 14 in the first half against the Runnin' Rebels, and the game was quickly out of reach.
Obviously, the Ducks scheduled this game expecting a win. While we see upsets in these kind of match-ups from time to time (well, hello there Albany), two factors really play against the Gamecocks for that scenario. The first is that they have no dynamic scorer--four players average double digits, but all under 13 points, and nobody who can hit a consistent three-ball. Basically, they have no player who can get hot and carry them to victory. The other problem is the size of their front line--only three players on the roster are taller than 6'6", none taller than 6'9", none of whom are starters, and two of them are freshmen who have barely gotten off the bench. The strength of the Ducks is the size and depth of the front line, going six deep at the forward positions.
Jacksonville State will start with three guards. Ronnie Boggs leads the team at 13 ppg, and has been their most efficient player, shooting 67% and grabbing almost seven boards a game through four games. Darrion Rackley and Brian Williams are the other guards, and both average just over ten points a game, as does forward Tarvin Gaines. All of those players appear to be in the same mode statistically: high volume, low percentage shooters who score a lot of points because they get the bulk of the minutes. This team can't shoot at all from deep (10-52, .192 on the season). They've gotten by on forcing turnovers, which they've done quite well, and finishing at the rim, which they won't be able to do against Tony Woods and friends.
This is a game the Ducks should win handily. The size advantage and inability of Jacksonville State to match the Ducks' shooters should prevail.
The one thing to keep in mind for Oregon fans is a tweet from Waverly Austin suggesting that he won't be playing tonight:
Wish I could play tomorrow but i know my bros going to hold it down! #goducks— Waverly austin (@WaverlyAustin) November 19, 2012
That said, Oregon has plenty of depth on the front line, and it shouldn't be an issue for this game.