LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 10: Tyrone Nared #31 of the Oregon Ducks reacts in the first half while taking on the UCLA Bruins in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Pacific Life Pac-10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Center on March 10, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
3:00 PT :: Matthew Knight Arena
TV :: Comcast SportsNet Northwest
Pomeroy Prediction :: UO 76-55
Senior day comes to Matthew Knight Arena, and there is much to celebrate. This will mark the final home game for five seniors, a group that is responsible for bringing Oregon basketball out of the doldrums and back into the NCAA Tournament conversation. We'll celebrate the way Devoe Joseph has taken over games, how Garrett Sim has transformed himself into one of the best shooters in the conference, Olu Ashaolu's thunderous dunks, and how Tyrone Nared and Jeremy Jacob have done what good role players do--play tough defense and make the most of the opportunites they're given. But its also a very bittersweet day. We've barely gotten to know Joseph and Ashaolu, and it seems unfitting that after the tough journey traveled by Sim, Jacob, and Nared that it could possibly end without a trip to the dance. A win today clinches a first round bye in the Pac-12 tournament and keeps that dream alive.
Utah isn't a very good team--its somewhat of a miracle that they've won three conference games. However, its not a team you can take lightly. They've beaten Washington State and Stanford. They've had near-upsets against Washington and Arizona. Everything that Oregon has done to give itself a chance to make the tournament is gone with a loss against Utah tonight. However, this is a focused team that knows what its playing for.
Utah isn't a very good team, ranking 307th in offensive efficiency, and 258th in defensive efficiency. They can't shoot (eFG%=46.4%, 3P%=31.5, true FG%=40.4%). They 338th in the country in offensive rebounds. 273rd in turnovers. The defense isn't much better. This team does nothing well. They don't even do anything mediocre. Its a miracle that they've won the games they have, and for them to win today would be the upset of the year in the Pac-12 (knock on wood). They'll try to really slow the pace down (321st in the country in pace), but may not be able to do that against Oregon's full court press.
Josh Watkins was their best player, but he was kicked off the team midseason. 7'0" center Jason Washburn is a bit of a matchup problem, averaging almost 11 points and six boards a game, but productions drops off a cliff after him. Guard Chris Hines averages 9.8 ppg--on 33% shooting. Cedric Martin gives them seven points a game--on 36% shooting. It doesn't get any better on down the roster. If Oregon shows up, they should win going away.
In the meantime, thanks to Devoe Joseph for not being the star that we deserve, but the one that we need. Thanks to Garrett Sim for improving his game to a level none of us thought possible, and completely punking the Huskies and Beavers this season. Thanks to Jeremy Jacob for sticking around when he had every reason to leave, battle through the injuries, and filling a great role on the front line this season. Thanks to Tyrone Nared for being the first guy to come to Eugene in our darkest hour, and giving us everything despite not being an offensive focal point. And thanks to Olu Ashaolu throwing it down on everyone.
This group has been through so much, they deserve to end it all with a tourney bid. The way to do that is to keep winning.