The Oregon Ducks open conference play on Sunday night, traveling up the road to Corvallis to take on the Oregon State Beavers. Oregon State sits at 10-3, but its a confounding 10-3. The Beavers' best win is a neutral court victory over 7-7 Purdue. They have narrow losses to Alabama and Kansas on neutral floors. They also have a complete WTF loss at home to Towson.
For Oregon, the biggest news for this game is that Arsalan Kazemi is expected to play after suffering from "concussion-like symptoms" following a blow to the head during the Ducks' New Year's Eve win over Nevada. If Kazemi is unable to go, it make this a very uphill battle for Oregon, as Kazemi's defense and rebounding are a big reason to feel good about the Ducks' chances in this one. Arik Armstead will also be traveling with the team, though will not be in uniform. For Oregon State, forward Angus Brandt is out for the season after suffering a knee injury.
The game is going to feature two teams that want to get up and down the floor. Possessions per 40 minutes (71 for OSU, 72 for UO), efficiency (109.6 for OSU, 107 for UO) and scoring (77.9 for OSU, 77.4 for UO) are almost the same between the two teams. However, despite these similarities, there are major differences between the two teams. Oregon State is quite adept at shooting the three (41% vs. 32% for UO) and get to the line more (42.% free throw rate, as opposed to 38% for Oregon). However, the Ducks maul teams on the boards (Rebound percentage of 57% for UO--one of the highest marks in the country--as opposed to 53% for OSU). The Ducks have also been far and away the best defensive team in the conference, allowing only 60 points per game, despite having faced the most possessions in the conference, and allowing opposing teams to shoot only 38% on the season. They also foul less than any other team in the Pac-12. It's why Oregon has been so good this year despite the turnover and three-point shooting issues--they aren't going to give up easy shots, they are going to hold you to a single shot, and they aren't going to give you any free points at the foul line.
The Beavers have five players averaging double digits. Roberto Nelson (15.8 ppg) and Ahmad Starks (12.3) are the starting backcourt, and both are over 44% from three-point land. Starks especially is subject to Tajuan Porter like runs of hitting three or four in a row. The front-court trio of Joe Burton (11.5 ppg), Devon Collier (14.8 ppg) and Eric Moreland (11 points and 11 rebounds) make this one of the few games where the Ducks don't have a big frontcourt advantage.
Tempo won't be a factor in this one. It will be an up and down contest. It will come down to three things: if Oregon can hold Oregon State's three-point shooting in check, if they can dominate the boards like they have against other teams, and if they don't give up a lot of points on the foul line, it will bode well. On the flip side, if Oregon State can make the Ducks turn the ball over a lot as they've been prone to, and hold things even on the boards, it likely gives the Beavers the edge.
Game date and time:
Sunday, Jan. 6 at 7 p.m. PT
Gill Coliseum, Corvallis