Preview: Ducks head south for critical matchup with Bay Area schools

Oregon (14-7, 4-4) hits the road this weekend for matchups with Cal (7-15, 1-8) on Thursday and Stanford (11-11, 5-4) on Saturday. The Ducks are coming off wins over UCLA and Oregon State and need to keep winning if they want a chance of making the NCAA Tournament.

First up for the Ducks is Cal, one of the only true bottom-feeders in the conference. Among their 15 losses, they’ve suffered a 24-point blowout to Chaminade, an 8-point loss to UC Riverside, and a 25-point throttling at the hands of Portland State.

Cal is challenged offensively and defensively. The Golden Bears rank last in the conference in points scored (64.3 per game) and allowed (79.1 per game). That’s not a winning recipe, and neither is the fact that Cal ranks dead last in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, free throw percentage and defensive field goal percentage.

But regardless of talent, Oregon hasn’t played well in Berkeley, California, the last couple years. Oregon’s Elite Eight team two years ago got blown out by 20 against the Golden Bears, and even last year’s Final Four team needed a Dillon Brooks’ buzzer beater to win.

Don Coleman leads Cal with 16.9 points per game and nabs 1.4 steals as well. Kentucky transfer Marcus Lee (12.9 points and 7.8 rebounds) and freshman Justice Sueing (14.3 points and 5.9 rebounds) provide solid play at the forward spots while 7-foot-1 Kingsley Okoroh anchors the middle, blocking two shots per game.

Oregon will face a tougher test on Saturday when they face Stanford in Palo Alto, California. The Cardinal are looking to get back on track after losing three straight.

The Cardinal have had a wild conference experience so far. They kicked it off by losing to Cal (Still Cal’s only win in the Pac-12), but rattled off five straight wins after that, which included wins over USC and No. 25 Arizona State. But since beating the Sun Devils, Stanford has lost to Arizona, USC and UCLA by 16. If there’s any team that’s been as inconsistent as Oregon, it’s Stanford.

Stanford will pose a large challenge for the undersized Ducks in the form of 6-foot-8 forward Reid Travis. Travis is top ten in the conference in scoring (16.6 points per game) and rebounding (8.4 per game). Supporting him is a balanced attack of reserves. Seven other players average more than 20 minutes and six points per game. Dorian Pickens has been stellar in conference play, averaging 15.6 points and three 3-pointers per game.

Offensively, Stanford can hang with the best in the conference. The Cardinal are currently third in the conference in points per game with 78.2 and they shoot 47.3 percent from the field, the second-best mark in the conference.

Defensively, Stanford allows 77.1 points per game but guards the three well, which could play into their hands against the trigger-happy Ducks. Oregon averages 25 3-point attempts per game but connects on just less than 8 of those (30.4 percent).

A win over Cal should be expected this year. Stanford will be the real challenge. A win over the Cardinal would be incredibly beneficial to Oregon’s resume. A loss would only widen the margin between them and the NCAA Tournament.

Oregon tips off against Cal at 6 p.m. Thursday on Pac-12 Network. Saturday’s game aginst Stanford begins at 2 p.m.  and will air on Fox.

Follow Gus Morris on Twitter @JustGusMorris

The post Preview: Ducks head south for critical matchup with Bay Area schools appeared first on Emerald Media.

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