11 AM PST -- McArthur Court
Kenpom.com prediction: Cougs win 59-57 (62 possesions, 63 percent confidence)
I know every game in the Pac-10 is important, but this sure has the feel of a tipping point kind of game for the Cougs. We've won a couple in a row, even as the offense is still figuring out ways to improve, and now we've got a real chance to get it rolling against a team that is -- record-wise, at least -- the worst team in the Pac-10.
But there's no shortage of talent here, and if you believe what you read, this might just be a tipping point game for the Ducks, too. They're 0-5 in the Pac-10, and have to be getting desperate for a win. And a team desperate for a win, playing in front of a notoriously raucous fan base that was insulted as the enemy left town Thusday ... well, let's just say the Cougs better be ready to have the kitchen sink thrown at them today.
The Ducks still chuck up 3's with the best of them -- 35.6 percent of their shots -- but their ability to make them has dropped considerably this year, nearly 5 percent to 34.9. But the real problem is their ability to score inside the 3-point line. Without Malik Hairston, Bryce Taylor and Maarty Leunen, the Ducks are 275th nationally in 2-point FG%. Because of all that, the Ducks have dropped to 224th in eFG% this year. They were eighth last year. Ouch.
Of course this all bodes well for the Cougs, who are fifth nationally in eFG% defense and second in 2-point FG% defense.
Additionally, the Ducks are a pretty terrible defensive team, with one notable exception: They're one of the best teams in the country at stealing the ball. That could be trouble for the Cougs, who have been prone to rashes of turnovers, because the Ducks' defensive efficiency is reasonably correlated to their ability to force turnovers. Take care of the ball against Oregon, and you stand a good chance of scoring some easy buckets.
The most talented Duck is freshman big man Michael Dunigan, who is a load inside. He's an efficient scorer at times, but he's had tremendous difficulty staying out of foul trouble -- he's averaging just a tick over 20 minutes, yet is taking more than 25 percent of the Ducks' shots when he's on the floor. It should be fun watching him and Baynes bang down low.
I'm most interested in seeing how Tony works the rotation this game, because I think this is going to require a totally different approach than Thursday, methinks.