Its been a long while since Oregon has entered the last weeks of the Pac-12 schedule with something to play for. The carrot of an NCAA berth is still out there, though it would probably take sweeping the rest of the regular season, or winning the conference tournament to feel good about those prospects. A more likely possiblity is a home game to start the NIT, which is probably a few wins away. The league championship also stands out as a realistic possiblity, though a win at Cal Thursday would be a must. In every scenario, one thing is clear: Oregon needs to win the majority of its last five games to make any of these scenarios a big possibility.
The Ducks have won three of their past four, the only loss being the one-point defeat at Colorado. All season, Oregon has been a three man team: Singler, Sim, and Joseph, a team that looks hopelessly lost when one of those players is having an off game, and a team that has looked really good on the rare occasions where one of the other players (usually Olu Ashaolu) has stepped up.
However, in the last four, we've seen the emergence of a new factor. Carlos Emory was a player we were excited about coming in, a JUCO All-American who looked to be an instant impact player. It hadn't played out that way much of the season, and Emory almost fell out of the rotation completely getting three total minutes on the Arizona trip, but Emory has come on strong as of late.
This chart compares Emory's first 20 games of the season with his last five:
|First 20 games||Last 5 games|
Five games is a small sample size compared to the first 20, and Emory isn't all of a sudden going to be a 59% shooter for the rest of the season, but its clear from both watching the games and from his stat line that Emory is finally feeling comfortable in his role and at the Division I level. The rebounds (and number points he's getting on putbacks and in transition) is a sign of comfort and aggressiveness that he just hasn't shown much of the season, which lends credibility to a performance bump being sustainable.
If he can maintain performance at somewhere near the level he's been playing at in the last five, it give Oregon a chance to win when one of the big three has an off night, and a step closer to having the depth of playmakers needed to make a run in whatever tournament they end up in. It also is a very good sign going into next season, when Joseph, Sim, and Ashaolu will be long gone.