It has seemed like this moment would never come, but here we are. Ducks basketball is finally back! I don’t know about you, but I’m excited for the potential of this team. I’m also just excited that basketball is happening despite what’s happening in our world, but that’s been talked about enough already.
After several game cancelations/rescheduling, including the Eastern Washington game that was supposed to kick-off the season last week, Oregon finally has some ball to play, as they find themselves with a pair of neutral-location opponents, as they are set to tip off against the Missouri Tigers before a bout against the Seton Hall Pirates in Omaha.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the Tigers.
Head Coach: Cuonzo Martin
2019-20 Record: 15-16 (7-11 in SEC, 10th place)
Key Players: Jeremiah Tilmon, Xavier Pinson, Mark Smith
The Mizzou Tigers come to Omaha a seasoned bunch, returning most of the players from last year’s team, meanwhile Oregon will sport a relatively fresh lineup, considering Chris Duarte Jr. is the only returning starter from last year’s Pac-12-winning squad.
Mizzou got off to a strong 9-4 non-conference start last year before struggling through a 2-7 SEC kickoff. The Tigers struggled shooting threes, as guard Mark Smith was the only member of the team who shot above 30% from downtown for the season. If Mizzou’s three-point shooting isn’t much improved, it could be a long day for the Tigers as the Ducks will be able to drive them into the paint, making life hard for Mizzou.
Another area of focus where Oregon could exploit Mizzou is through fouling. Head Coach Cuonzo Martin is a defensive-minded coach, and Mizzou is a good defensive team, but last year the Tigers committed an average of 21.2 personal fouls per game, good for 11th in the nation. If the Ducks can get Mizzou in foul trouble early and often, especially big man Jeremiah Tilmon, who struggles with fouling, it could turn ugly fast.
While it is a non-conference neutral game, this still presents a big opportunity for the Ducks. They must adjust to life without Payton Pritchard, not to mention the large amount of turnover they have undergone since March, adding several new faces while also losing some familiar ones. But despite the changes to the team, I’m predicting a Ducks win of 75-62. Ducks basketball is finally back, and I couldn’t be happier!