At 9-1, the University of Oregon Ducks are atop the ‘others receiving votes’ category for the second straight week, barely missing being ranked in the latest AP poll.
Oregon lost a point from last week’s poll to finish with 176 points, 22 short of 25th ranked North Carolina State‘s 198 point total. With Oregon’s 60-38 win over Nebraska (6-3) and 23rd ranked Wichita State‘s loss to unranked Tennessee last week, there was a strong possibility Oregon could have been ranked in the top 25 for the first time since the 2007-08 season. However, the Butler Bulldogs slipped into rankings at No. 19 by beating the previously unbeaten No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers in overtime 88-86.
With a record of 9-1, Oregon has been exceeding expectations this season after being picked 7th in the preseason Pac-12 media poll. Oregon’s 8-0 home record is its best start since the 2007-08 season, the last season the Ducks made the NCAA tournament. Expectations were low for the Ducks coming into the 2012-13 season, mainly due to the Ducks losing three of its top four players, and bringing in eight newcomers to this seasons team.
Oregon has had big non-conference wins against Vanderbilt, UNLV and most recently Nebraska. The Ducks’ 83-79 win against the UNLV Rebels was their only win against a ranked opponent. Despite the Rebel’s lone loss being to Oregon at home in the Thomas and Mack Center, UNLV is still 21st in the country. UNLV’s lone big win was a one-point victory over the Cal Golden Bears.
The 25th ranked North Carolina State Wolfpack were ranked 6th in preseason polls, but have losses to No. 24 Oklahoma State and No. 2 Michigan. Oklahoma State’s lone loss is a 10-point defeat to the ACC leading Virginia Tech Hokies.
With wins in their final three non-conference games against Texas-El Paso, Houston Baptist and Nevada, Oregon will likely go into Pac-12 play on January 6th versus Oregon State at an impressive 12-1.
After their win against the Florida Gators, the Arizona Wildcats jumped up four spots in the rankings up to that No. 4 position. Arizona remains the only ranked team in the Pac-12 currently. The Ducks will play the Wildcats at home January 10th, in what should be a highly contested matchup. With a win against Arizona, Oregon will surely be ranked if they aren’t already at that point. At that point, it would simply be for a better spot in the rankings.
Oregon has been lead this season by their defensive play, holding opponents to under 40 points in its last two games. The last time Oregon accomplished that feat was 66 years ago during the 1946-47 season. The Ducks are 17th in the nation in scoring margin, outscoring their opponents by an average of 16.9 points per game.
Oregon is first in the Pac-12 and 20th in the nation in steals with 9.8 per game. Oregon is also ranked nationally in rebounding margin, out rebounding its opponents by more than 10 rebounds per game, 14th in the country.
Senior transfer Arsalan Kazemi has come in from Rice and played exceptional for the Ducks, leading the team in rebounds (10.3) and steals (3.5). Kazemi ranks 3rd in the country in steals and leads the Ducks’ stingy attack defensively. While the Ducks are forcing 18 turnovers per game, their turnover margin is low because they are giving 16.1 turnovers a game. To be among the nation’s elite the Ducks will have to improve upon that statistic and give up less turnovers.
Head coach Dana Altman says the team has “tremendous potential”, but must play more consistency on both ends of the court. That consistency will come with the team’s five active freshman getting more time on the court.
The Ducks’ freshman core is among the best in the nation, and are in the top 5 in points (302), rebounds (110) and assists (60). The core is led by starters in the backcourt, Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson. Dotson leads the Ducks in points per game with 11, while Artis leads the team in assists with 3.5.
Senior leader E.J. Singler believes this team is the best he has played on in his 4 years at Oregon, but doesn’t “even think we’ve played our best yet, not even close.”
Singler has struggled so far this season after battling a nagging knee injury. Singler is last on the team in field goal percentage at 36.4 percent, but after scoring 13 points in the Ducks’ last game versus Nebraska, Singler has now started in 88 straight games and scored in double figures in 67 games during his career.
Coach Altman is now into his third season at the helm of the Ducks’s program and says Singler has made strides in every season he has been in Eugene. Altman’s first year gave the Ducks a winning record of 21-18 and a CBI championship. Altman improved on his first year with a 24-10 season and a birth in the NIT. Now in his third year as head coach, Altman has propelled the Ducks into a contender looking for a birth in the NCAA tournament.
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