College Basketball Invitational First Round
Weber State Wildcats (18-13) at Oregon Ducks (16-17)
7:00 PT, Matthew Knight Arena
Oregon's March Madness starts tonight, and it consists of a mediocre Oregon team taking on a field of mediocre mid-majors in a third rate postseason tournament. But, hey, do you realize how long its been since we've been invited to even a third rate postseason tournament? The reaction I hear to the CBI is mixed. I do hear a minority complaining about it, as if we're too good to be here. And I would agree that I wouldn't have wanted to accept a CBI bid in a year like last year, where the team finished 15-15 but woefully underachieved and everyone was feeling terrible about the program.
But this year is a bit different. While the record is similar, we have a group who has overacheived and been really fun to watch. We also have a mix of younger players (Loyd, Nared) who could use the experience, and seniors (Catron, Strowbridge) who have given us more than we could have asked for this year, and deserve to have their wish of extending their college careers honored. To quote Coach Altman:
"Joevan was pretty passionate in that he wanted to play,'' Altman said. "He's given so much to our team this year, he wanted to suit it up, so that made the decision pretty easy.''
And isn't the players what this should all be about? Is this really any different from a 6-6 football team going to the Insight or Humanitarian Bowl? I'm not saying we throw up a banner for it. But lets give the kids a reward for working their tails off this season. I'll watch because its fun and, hell, if we're going to play in the thing, we may as well win it.
Onto Weber State:
Its been an adverse season for Weber State, having lost their best player to injury back in December. While they didn't reach their expectations of a Big Sky title, they still performed admirably with 18 wins. Two things stand out about Weber State. The first is that they are not very big, and won't pound us like many of the Pac-10 teams we've played recently. They have one 6-10 player in the rotation, but he is a freshman averaging 11 minutes a game and is not terribly physical. Most of their roster stacks up at 6'6"-6'8" for the frontcourt, and 6'2"-6'3" for the backcourt, which from a size standpoint is fairly equal to our squad. We should be able to hold our own on the boards. The other is that they shoot the ball well, hitting the three at 41% on the season, 4th in the nation. While they don't always attempt a ton (KenPom ranks the Wildcats 74th in EFG%), you know that against the zone they will let the threes fly, and it is one area that we have had trouble with at times. They have four players averaging in double digits from 10-12 ppg, though not one that can consistently take over a game. Guard Scott Bamforth is a dangerous shooter, hitting at 50% from three on the season. The Ducks and Wildcats have two common opponents--Weber State lost to Arizona State by two on a neutral floor, and split matchups with Portland State. KenPom predicts a ten point Oregon win, putting the odds at 85% of a Duck victory.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
REBOUND: This is not like a Pac-10 team where Weber State will have a huge size advantage. Their best rebounder goes for six a game, and they only average 33 a game as a team. KenPom ranks them 321 in the nation in OffReb%, thats 80 spots worse than the Ducks. Its time to pound somebody else on the boards for a change.
DEFEND THE THREE: This is a game where Oregon should actually have the talent advantage, and by a pretty decent margin, but the three ball is the great equalizer, and Weber State can shoot it. We have to have good rotations in the zone, and good close outs with the hands up to disturb the Wildcat three point shooters.
FEED DUKE: Weber State doesn't have a good individual matchup for Joevan Catron (and they will play man-to-man). If they single him, let Duke go to work. If they double him, let him find the open man. Our offense should run through the big man today.
What the hell? Lets win this thing.