The Oregon Ducks' men's basketball team is off to an impressive 6-1 start, and, if you're a listener to the ATQ Podcast, Matt and I have already declared this season to be tournament or bust. For those of you who aren't podcast listeners, here are some early thoughts on the men's basketball team:
Defensively, the group is a big work in progress. The effort is there, but the execution is not year. However, with so many new parts, the fact that the effort is there is the most important thing. I'd expect the defense to come together as the season goes on. The offense is putting up a ton of points, almost 80 per game, but is still turning the ball over a ton. The Ducks shoot over 47% as a team, and over 75% from the line, so if they can cut the turnovers to around 12-13 a game, this team will be averaging in the mid-80s and will be really tough to beat.
I'm really excited about this group. Oregon's frontcourt legitimately runs six deep, is big, skilled offensively, and can rebound. I think it's the best frontcourt in the Pac-12.
Arsalan Kazemi: I underestimated just how good an addition Kazemi would be for this team. He is extremely athletic, an tenacious rebounder, and has amazingly quick hands defensively (3.4 steals per game). I'll call it now--Kazemi is going to be an all-conference performer. He had 15 rebounds against UNLV, and his stat line against UTSA last night read: 20 points, 8-9 FGs, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals, 3 blocks. He's only getting better with every game.
E.J. Singler: E.J. is not playing terribly well right now. In his last three games, he's shooting 7-28 (25%) with nine turnovers. E.J. is a proven commodity, and we know what he's capable of, and he needs to return to that level before conference play begins.
Ben Carter: I'm really impressed by Carter's athleticism and physicality. He didn't back down against the big front lines of UNLV and Cincinnati. He finishes well around the rim, rebounds well, and is an excellent free throw shooter (18-20, 90%). He will be an excellent player off the bench for Oregon this season, and will be ready to contend for a starting spot next year.
Tony Woods: Woods has made a step forward offensively, but still doesn't use his size the way he should. He needs to drop step and power up, and instead he often brings the ball down and puts it up soft. Defensively, he's been a small disaster, fouling out of both Las Vegas games in 16 total minutes. He still blocks shots, but eight total rebounds in the last five games doesn't cut it when you're almost seven feet tall.
Carlos Emory: The first couple of games was a little rough, but Emory is back to playing at the level he did toward the end of last season. He's been very aggressive offensively, often getting to the rim with ease, making free throws, and rebounding very well. He's also been one of the more consistent guys on the defensive end.
Waverly Austin: Austin has great athleticism and finishes well at the basket. However, he's quite raw at this point. The hope for him is that he makes steady progress, and is a solid rotation player by the end of the season.
The freshmen have met all expectations at this point, and are all upside. They didn't back down and fade away against UNLV when everything said they should have. They are already playing at a good level, and there is still a ton of upside with this group.
Dominic Artis: Very good stroke and explosiveness on his jumper. Can hit that shot from anywhere. Has shown the ability to get to the rim and finish, though could do so with more consistency. He's a work in progress defensively, but with a ton of potential. Needs to cut down on his turnovers, which are at nearly three per game.
Damyean Dotson: I love this kid. Great defender, great rebounder. Also a guy who can score in a myriad of ways (both shooting and finishing). Shoots free throws at an 85% clip.
Johnathan Loyd: Same as he ever was. Shoots under 40%, plays fast to out-of-control, and is a liability defensively.