Oregon State Beavers (13-7, 3-5) at Oregon Ducks (15-5, 6-2)
3:30 PT, Matthew Knight Arena
TV: FSN/ROOT (national)
Pomeroy Rankings: Oregon State (68), Oregon (102)
Pomeroy Prediction: Oregon 78-77
The Oregon Ducks should not be the first place team in the Pac-12.
The advanced stats tell the story. They rank in the second half of the conference in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They've faced the second toughest in-conference SOS to date. Pomeroy's rankings have them ranked #102 in the nation, which is good for eighth in the conference, in front of only USC, Utah, ASU, and Washington State. And during Oregon's four game win streak, they've actually gone down in those rankings. If you listened to this week's podcast, Matt Daddy expressed his concern that Oregon was winning ugly, and has major question marks as to whether Oregon can sustain this level for the long haul. I guarantee you that every statistician would agree that the Ducks are due for some regression to the mean.
Indeed, that is what you would expect. In baseball, the sport where advanced statistical analysis is most developed, teams that outperform their Pythogorean W/L formula pretty much to a tee regress the next season (something that as a Mariners fan I know all too well). But there are teams that, for whatever reason, outperform projections for an entire season. Whether there is something quantifiable that makes up being "clutch," or if its just a statistical fluke, it does happen. Further, basketball is different than baseball. This team has gotten better since earlier in the season. It plays defense consistently enough not to get blown out. And the guys who are taking most of the shots at the end of close games (EG, Garrett, Devoe), hit from both the field and the line at very good rates. This isn't a tough conference at all this season, and Oregon has gone on this streak playing less than stellar basketball. What happens when they start putting together full games?
In short, I have no idea whether this is sustainable. There are very good reasons to believe that it is or isn't. Me? I'm just going to enjoy the fact that we have winning basketball in Eugene again, and see where that takes us. When you can remember going 2-16 in the conference, its pretty tough to complain about first place, regardless of how we've gotten there.
A lot is on the line tonight as the Beavers roll into Matthew Knight Arena. Bragging rights over little brother are always important. But moreso is keeping Oregon's place at the top of the conference. Colorado lost to UCLA yesterday, dropping them a game back. Oregon and Cal both play their rivalry games at home tonight. With a win, the Ducks end the first half of the season in a tie for first, with a realisitc shot at having the spot outright with a Cal loss to Stanford.
Oregon State is a scary matchup that presents a lot of matchup problems for the Ducks. Oregon has had trouble with athletic guards, whether that be DaVonte Lacy, Nic Wise, Maurice Jones, Lazeric Jones, Jorge Gutierrez, or Tony Wroten. Right now, Jared Cunningham is better than all of those guys, is leading the conference in scoring at nearly 18 a game, and can get shots from anywhere. He is a matchup nightmare for Oregon, and you can't just concentrate on him because Roberto Nelson can go off almost as easily, and Ahmad Starks never met a three pointer he didn't like (and makes a good chunk of them). All three of those guys are averaging well into the double digits, shoot well enough to pull you out of a zone, and can torch you if left one-on-one in a man. Oh, and if you can stop them, they have three inside guys, Angus Brandt, Devon Collier, and Joe Burton who all go for 9.5 points plus per game as well. This is the best offensive team in the conference--Pomeroy has them in the 25 top offenses in the nation--and they are going to score a ton of points.
The flip side is that Oregon State's defense has been less than stellar, ranking ninth in the conference. That said, Oregon is only one place above that and OSU's defense is not as bad as its made out to be. They force a ton of turnovers and don't commit a lot of fouls, but teams tend to shoot really well against them. If you can avoid turnovers in the 1-3-1, you can get a lot of open looks, and open looks usually mean good things for the Ducks. But if Oregon plays like they have for halves against UCLA or Arizona, Oregon State will blow them out. In fact, given some of their losses (OT to Arizona, 4OT to Stanford), and their statistical profile, one could say that OSU has been as unlucky as Oregon has lucky, and that they are due for some regression to the mean of their own. Of course, they've also looked uncompetitive in losses to Arizona State, Washington State, and Idaho this season, so who knows?
FOUR FACTORS PREVIEW:
eFG%: Oregon State has an eFG% of 54.1, good for 24th in the nation. They hit often, and from everywhere on the floor. Oregon ranks 93rd, and has been tumbling in these rankings. Of course, teams shoot merely okay aganst Oregon, while they shoot phenomenally against the Beavers, who rank 334th, nearly the worst in the entire nation, at giving up the three. Oregon State is the better offensive team, but Oregon will get better shots, so I'll call this a wash.
Turnover %: Oregon State forces the 7th most turnovers of any team in the country, and turn it over offensively a lot less than Oregon does. Oregon turns the ball over a lot, and doesn't really force any. This is what I'm keeping an eye on early, hoping that the Ducks don't find a way to turn the game over. Advantage: Oregon State.
Offensive Rebounding %: Both teams are susceptible to giving up offensive rebounds, but the Beavers get them 3% more of the time than the Ducks to. Advantage: Oregon State.
FTA/FGA: Oregon has been great at this all year, ranking 43rd in the country at getting to the line, amazing for a perimeter oriented team. Oregon State is even more amazing, ranking 19th. Of course, the Ducks don't foul, ranking 22nd at not giving up free throws. The Beavers rank nearly 200th. Oregon should get to the line more than OSU (and they are also better at making them). Advantage: Oregon.
So Oregon is at the statistical disadvantage, but its been that way in almost every game this year, so....
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Turnovers--This is what I'm looking at early. OSU will force a lot of turnovers, especially Cunningham being the top guy in the 1-3-1. The Ducks have been prone to some sloppy passing up top at times this season. If that happens against the Beavers, watch out. Oregon has to take care of the ball.
Shoot 45%--Oregon shot 23% for the first half against UCLA. The Ducks were only in position to make a run because UCLA went 1-8 from the line in that half. That won't happen with OSU. Oregon has to shoot well the entire game because the Beavers are so good offensively.
You can't drive on 55--The Beavers present many matchup problems defensively. They can shoot you out of a zone, but they are also more athletic than Oregon and especially Cunningham will get to the rim against a man no matter who the Ducks throw at him defenisvely. Tony Woods needs to do what he did when the Ducks made their run against UCLA and be the eraser.
The Beaver offense is tough, but their defense will give up open shots, and with their consistency issues, you never know what OSU you are going to get. But they'll be focused for this one, and this would be a great time for the Ducks to finally put that complete game together.