Oregon welcomes Winston-Salem State, UC Davis and Colorado State into Mac Court this weekend, hoping to start the 2009-10 season off on a good note. The BTI Tip-off Tournament is a function put on by Basketball Travelers Inc, an organization with an interesting history. If you plan on going to any of the games, make sure you check the parking situation. Homecoming Weekend can be a challenge on campus with all of the events going on. Let's take a look at the teams involved
A Look at Winston-Salem State
Playing as an independent, the Rams sported an 8-22 overall record last year, most of their games coming against opponents from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Experience will be important as Winston-Salem will look to ride their veteran backcourt of Brian Fisher and Diontae Gibson. Fisher lead the team last year averaging 14 points and 2 steals per game. Gibson represents their 3pt threat, hitting about 35% of his chances. Both are seniors and should see most of the touches. On the block, Paul Davis will look to clean up on the boards. He averaged better than 53% from the field last year but didn't get a lot of chances. Beyond Fisher, Gibson and Davis, the Rams don't have a legitimate scoring threat returning. 9 players are new to the team so there may be issues with chemistry in their first game.
Even though the Rams have size on the front line, Davis is 6-9, 195lbs and he will get most of the action. Oregon will have a big advantage, both in speed and strength. With most of the action running through the guards, it will be imperative for the Duck bigs not to get in foul trouble. Defense and the transition game should win the game. In a half court set, dish and kick should be open if the Ducks choose to exploit it.
Breaking down UC Davis
Playing in the Big West Conference, the Aggies played to an overall record of 12-18. Head Coach Gary Stewart is in his 7th year as coach and came to UC Davis from UCLA where he worked under Steve Lavin during the 2002-03 season. 3 starters are back, including Joe Harden and Mark Payne who were both named Second Team All-Big West Conference last year. Harden is listed as a 6-8 guard (yes, a guard) who averaged 15 points and 7.2 rebounds a game last year. Payne, another 6-8 guard, averaged 10.4 points and 6 rebounds per game and shot an amazing 68% from the field. The Aggies have quite a bit of experience with a tough front line.
Oregon will have their hands full guarding the post, especially if Harden and Payne are moving the ball. All of the offense runs through them with Dunigan, Catron, Wilson and Jacob taking the brunt of the action. Without a 3 point threat, Oregon should be able to help in the post to create turnovers and run the ball. Managing fouls will be a key component for the Oregon strategy so Payne doesn't get room to distribute the ball.
A Look at Colorado State
CSU had an abysmal season last year, finishing 9-22 overall and 4-12 in the Mountain West Conference. The only bright side may be that almost everyone is coming back for a second turn. Big time threat Marcus Walker is gone but 6-9 junior Andy Ogide is back. Ogide averaged 10.2 points per game. Outside of Ogide, there isn't a lot of help. Jesse Carr is coming back from injury which may help provide an outside threat but CSU is rebuilding and just isn't in very good shape right now.
The Ducks should be able to run away from all the teams in the tournament and come out with victories in each contest. Ernie was smart in his scheduling. Just like in exhibition, each team has some unique tests that will challenge Oregon's abilities in different areas. Winston-Salem has a strong backcourt, UC Davis has an excellent frontcourt and CSU is more balanced. Talent and ability should help the Ducks prevail but these teams are a definite step up from the exhibition contests we've seen so far.