I don't know if I can say just how big Oregon's win against UCLA was. After losing to USC at home, most people probably figured that the Ducks were heading to an 0-2 home start in the Pac-10. And with as competitive as the conference is this year, where 8-8 would actually be quite an accomplishment for most teams, that looks like the start of an NIT season, not an NCAA season. My, how one win can change all of that.
Here are the reasons why that win is so big:
*Say this team goes 8-8 in conference. Depending on their Pac-10 tournament performance, that would probably put them on the bubble with 20 wins. Now, hopefully the Ducks do better than that, and I think they will. But if they underperform and end up on the bubble, how many bubble teams will have a win like that on their resume? Its the kind of W that sets you away from the pack.
*Confidence. Going 0 for 2 at home has a way of getting you down. Now, their confidence has to be sky high. Especially Aaron Brooks, who thouroughly outplayed Darren Collison.
*They did it without Malik. How good can they be when he gets back?
Now, I must confess I only saw the first half of the game. I had to run clocks and scoreboards at a local AAU tournament that morning. I stayed up until 2 AM to catch the FSN replay, but was so tired I fell asleep at halftime. Here are my impressions from the first half:
*Why did they shoot so well? The didn't settle for the three. If this team gets to the rim, which they are quick enough to do against anyone in the conference, they will always shoot a good percentage from the floor. If they settle for threes, it is much more of a crapshoot. Hopefully, they learn that.
*Maarty Leunen is amazing. What he is able to do against bigger and stronger players in the post is nothing short of superheroic.
*It looks like Aaron Brooks has finally grown up. He's making great decisions, and playing the best ball of his career. I'd take him over any other PG in the country right now.
*Nothing rattles this team. You sense that they have been through it all, and that the only thing that can stop them is themselves (and, specifically, taking a lot of stupid threes like in the SC game).
*Finally, nice to see The Pit shaking again. I remember my freshman year in 01-02, when we would get the rims shaking at the end of games. Nice to see that's back.
Just a great W for the Ducks. Now don't overlook ASU. That is a game the Ducks should win. And we know that in the Pac-10, you need to win all of those.