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MBB Game 9 Preview and Open Thread: Virginia Cavaliers at Oregon Ducks

2:30 PT, Matthew Knight Arena

The descendants of Jefferson trekked across the continent to bring civility to a hostile land. Future statesmen, they came to the Northwest seeking glory, and taming the wild west would secure patronage and the easy life. But the trip had not gone as planned. Unable to cross any open terrain without dogged pursuit, the Cavaliers packed together in the interior of the forest. As the shots rang from distance and began to hit their mark, even the biggest of the group knew the inevitable. Like so many before them, these Virginians would not survive the trip. Just another victim. Deep in the woods.

Oregon returns to Matthew Knight Arena to take on the ACC's Virginia Cavaliers. After failing to be terribly competitive in road games at Vanderbilt and at BYU, this serves as Oregon's last chance to get a marquee non-conference win and, this one being at home, the Ducks need to deliver. Given what Virginia has accomplished this season, it won't be easy.

The Cavaliers are coached by former Washington State coach Tony Bennett. Given the epic games of the past, we know Bennett's style--he's going to pack it in defensively, make it really hard to score, then slow down the pace offensively and work down the clock. For those of you unfamiliar with Bennett's pack line defense, picture this. You know the three point arc. Well, picture an arc that goes from the free throw line up top, then arcs around the court at fifteen feet in every direction (about five feet inside the three point arc). Virginia will play a man to man, but only the man guarding the ball handler will be outside this new arc. That means nobody is putting a lot of pressure on the passing lanes, you are free to move the ball around the outside and shoot threes at will. But it also means you have four guys packed in near the key at all times, and its difficult to impossible to get dribble penetration to the bucket, or to get good looks in the post.

Its also extremely difficult to get fast break points, as the Cavaliers will eschew the offensive boards in order get back into defensive position. The easiest way to defeat the pack line is to go bonkers from three, but if you shoot a lot of threes and aren't hitting, you play right into the defense's hands. To win a game against a team like this, you have to do three things well--hit enough outside shots to start to draw the defenders out of the pack line a bit, get some turnovers (especially against a turnover prone team like Virginia) and run on those, using the opportunity to both get easy points and get the tempo up. Finally, you have to match Virginia's defensive intensity. They haven't allowed more than sixty points in a game on defense yet. Offensively, they will try to control the pace by going deep into the shot clock, but if you play fundamental defense, you can force them into bad shots with the shot clock running down. If our big guys can hit the offensive boards, that would really help as well. Unfortunately, Virginia's defensive position deep in the key makes the latter extremely difficult.

For information about Virginia's personnel, see the post directly below this. Given time constraints, I am unable do do the usual four factors preview. Just know that Virginia is one of the best defensive teams in the country, shoots almost as well as we do, turns the ball over a lot but not quite as much to us, and does an even better job than us of getting to the line, which is saying a lot as we do very well at that. They don't get offensive rebounds, but a lot of that is by system as they all get back, and they allow next to zero offensive rebounds because of their good position. Its a very difficult matchup for Oregon. A win would have me instantly feeling a lot better about this team.

This is your open thread.