Oregon Ducks men’s basketball starting guard Dominic Artis has struggled to find his groove ever since returning from a month-long foot injury back in January. Artis, a true freshman from Findlay Prep High School, dominated in the first 19 games of the season, averaging 10.16 points per game and was one of the most consistent players on the team.
Of those first 19 games he scored in double-digits in 14 of them, recording a season-high of 16 in just the second game of his career. His return from injury has been quite the opposite. Artis has played inconsistent basketball with three scoreless games in his eight since returning to the court.
His points per game has dropped to an abysmal 4.13 in his return, putting him below half of the active players on the team. It’s uncertain if the injury is continuing to plague him, or if he’s just in a bit of a dry spell.
It appeared that he was back to his old self with a 13-point, 4-7 shooting performance in round two off the NCAA tournament against Oklahoma State on Thursday, but his 0-of-7, 0-point game against St Louis undid whatever momentum was there.
It’s been pretty clear that he is frustrated on the court. Against St Louis, his demeanor was off and he wasn’t in sync with the flow of the game. Junior guard Johnathan Loyd, who is become a rising star on the team, has filled in nicely during Artis’ dry spell.
Loyd was the Pac-12 Tournament MVP and has been the primary ball handler for the Ducks in the tournament thus far. Loyd is averaging 10.8 points per game over the past four games, and had a great game against St Louis when Artis was struggling. Loyd scored nine points and had a team-high six assists against the Bellikens.
The Ducks will play Louisville in the sweet 16, and they will have close to a week to clear things up with their guard play. Regardless of who gets the bulk of the time handling the ball, whoever does grab the reigns will need to be ready to go.
The Cardinals have phenomenal guards led by Russ Smith. It has been the Ducks’ defense more than the offense that has been key to the team’s two tournament wins. As long as Arsalan Kazemi keeps the block party going and Damyean Dotson continues to cash three point shots, the Ducks will have a chance.
With that said, guard play is considered by many to be the most important feature of a basketball team in the NCAA Tournament. The point guard is the quarterback of the basketball team; a field general who dictates the tempo of play and commands the team.
If Artis can’t find his old form, it will be up to Loyd to put Dotson, E.J. Singler and Carlos Emory in positions to be successful. It will be interesting to see what lineup head coach Dana Altman goes with on Friday. Will it be a small lineup with Loyd and Artis both in, or will he go big with one of them in and Emory or another forward in instead?