Pac-12 conference - Page 4

Oregon A 5 Seed in Latest NCAA Tournament Projections

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Ranked 16th in the nation and boasting a 16-2 record, the Oregon men’s basketball team have been projected as a five seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest NCAA tournament Bracketology. The Ducks have been rising recently in Lunardi’s weekly projected rankings. Last week Oregon was projected as a seven seed and they were projected as a ten seed the week before that.

Tony Woods and Oregon's front court depth are a big reason Oregon is in 1st place in the Pac-12 standings (Associated Press)
Tony Woods and Oregon’s front court depth are a big reason Oregon is in 1st place in the Pac-12 standings (AP Photo)

Lunardi’s projection comes with the Ducks on an absolute tear the past month. The Ducks are currently on a seven game winning streak, including a 5-0 record in conference. That 5-0 conference record is something Oregon has never done in school history.

That’s right in 110 years of Oregon basketball, Oregon has never started off conference play with five straight wins – not during the time of the Tall Firs or Oregon’s Elite 8 run in 2006.

Under Lunardi’s projection, the Ducks would be placed in the East region and would play 16-3 Bucknell. While the Ducks are in the East region, they would play their first two games in San Jose, Calif. Just over 450 miles away from Eugene, San Jose is the closest site for the Ducks in the tournament.

If the Ducks made it to the Sweet 16, they would have to travel across the country to play in Washington D.C., the main site for the East region. In the Sweet 16 Oregon could meet Duke, who at this point would be the number one overall seed in the tournament. Four Pac-12 teams in total are projected to make the tournament, with Arizona receiving a two seed. Arizona would receive the highest seed, and UCLA and Colorado also making the tournament.

Ducks should be favored in all of their games the rest of the season. In their 13 remaining games, Colorado is the only opponent projected to make the Big Dance. The Ducks will also face Washington twice, who was projected as one of the first four teams out of the tournament. Oregon will face Washington this Saturday at home, and then go on the road to face them February 13th. Oregon will take on Colorado February 7th at home.

While all except one of Oregon’s remaining opponents have winning records, it’s not out of the question for Oregon to run the table and finish the regular season with a 29-3 record. That would be the best record in Oregon men’s basketball history and would earn oregon a one or two seed in the tournament.

Overall, this would be a difficult bracket for the Ducks if they were ultimately placed in it. The Ducks would have to travel across the country to Washington D.C. If they got deep in the tournament, and would potentially have to face the overall number one seed Duke Blue Devils.

Here is the full ESPN bracket below:

NCAA Bracketology

Oregon Defensive Media Day Quotes 12/30

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Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, along with select defensive players had an early wake-up call Sunday morning for press conferences. Below are selected quotes from the Ducks defense. Monday morning will be the official Fiesta Bowl media day, with all players and coaches on hand for interviews.

 
Nick Aliotti(GoDucks.com)
Nick Aliotti
(GoDucks.com)

Nick Aliotti

 

Q: How has practice been so far?  Is the team seeing any rust at all?

A: There was maybe a little rust on day one.  You forget there’s an hour difference, just that little bit of hour difference, so they’re getting up a little bit earlier and stuff. I think as the week has gone on, the rust is coming off.  Felt really good about the way we’ve practiced and paid attention to everything we need to do.  It’s tough, a lot of times you go on a road trip, eight or nine days in a hotel.  It’s not an excuse. Bottom line is I feel good about the way we’ve practiced and paid attention to meetings.  It’s been smooth up to this time, knock on wood.

Q: Spoken very highly of Collin Klein.

A: He’s very good.  He runs that offense efficiently.  He’s a poised guy.  Appears to be a very smart football player.  He knows what they want him to do in their game plan.  He can run. I’ve stated this a number of times.  Mobile quarterbacks can extend football plays, and he’s one of those, for sure.  That’s always an extra added, I won’t use the word ‘problem,’ because there usually should be a solution to a problem, but that does become something you have to be concerned with when a quarterback can extend plays and make something happen with his feet.

Q: All teams have injuries throughout a season.  You got hit hard this year.  Does a month between games give your guys enough time to get back?

A: Yes.  Guys that were dinged up a little bit.  If you have a major injury, you lose Boyett for a year, Avery Patterson where it’s a major surgery, those guys around coming back.  Guys that have little owies, things with their shoulders, sprains in their ankles and stuff, certainly with a month to 35 days, they can ease into this thing. We’ll have everybody that we had against Oregon State.  We should be fine that way.  We should be fine that way.

 
Dion Jordan(GoDucks.com)
Dion Jordan
(GoDucks.com)

Dion Jordan

 

Q: How difficult is it maintaining your patience against a team like K State?

A: It’s very important.  They’re a great operation.  I think they focus on not making mistakes.  They have a guy in their quarterback, center, does a good job as far as controlling the game. It’s very important to be patient.  Like I said, guys on the defense have to be disciplined and understand your job on every snap.

Q: When you face a team the way they do the play action?

A: Teams like USC, not only do they have a great quarterback, they have great receivers.  Marqise Lee and Robert Woods.  Like I said, we got to be disciplined.  We got to play hard and everything else will take care of itself. Nothing is going to change.  We played 12 games now.  It all comes down to who’s prepared to go the best.  It’s going to be exciting.

Q: There’s lots of schemes that have running quarterbacks.  What is it from the tape that you watched that makes him so successful?

A: Like I say, he does a great job of managing the game.  He don’t make a lot of mistakes.  It’s kind of hard to find that weakness. But you understand that he’s going to have the ball in his hand.  No matter what kind of play it is, it’s going to be him pitching into a guy or running down the field, play?action pass with the bomb.  It’s going to be No. 7’s game. Everything speaks for itself.  I watched a lot of game tape on him.  He’s progressively gotten a lot better.  It’s all credit to him and to these guys.  Got to be focused and be disciplined.

Q: What do you have to be most prepared for against that offense?

A: Prepared that they do a lot of things, but you got to be prepared that the quarterback is going to run.  You got to know that at any moment they can have a designed play for him to run or he can run on his own. Collin Klein poses a lot of threats and you have to be prepared for him.

Q: Do you think with what you have done this year, even with a loss to Stanford, your defense has more than proven their value?

A: The defense, we’ve proven we can play with the big guys.  You know we’re not just an offensive team.  We can do good things on defense, as well.

Q: Never get 100% healthy even with a month off.  Does that 35 days give you a chance to get your legs back?

A: Yeah, with our treatment staff here, it’s amazing.  With this much time, we can really get as close to 100% as we can.  These days off just really help us a lot.

Ducks Offer Scholarship to Big Recruit

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Competing for a national championship in college football is done year-by-year, game-by-game and through the grueling process of piecing the team together carefully through each and every recruit.  This is the scenario that Oregon Ducks head coach Chip Kelly and his staff is all too familiar with, but very good at.

The recent offering of a scholarship to the mammoth Orlando Brown Jr. from Peachtree Ridge High Cchool in Duluth, GA. shows the Oregon coaching staff’s mindset and actions in keeping the Ducks in real contention for both the Pac-12 and national championships. Brown certainly has the size and pedigree to play at the collegiate level and the NFL.  The son of former NFL lineman Orlando Brown, infamously known for being accidentally hit in the eye with a penalty marker during a game by NFL referee Jeff Triplette.  Brown Sr. tragically died an untimely death last September due to diabetic illness.

Orlando Brown Jr. works out for high school scouts in offseason conditioning tests this spring. Brown has two years remaining in high school.

Oregon, like many of the nation’s top schools, has taken notice of Brown Jr. for more than just his name. Brown is listed at 6’8 and 370 pounds (according to espn.com), which on paper would give him a commanding presence in the huddle, locker room and certainly on campus.

Getting Brown to actually commit after a scholarship offer to the University of Oregon isn’t going to be an easy task; typical of high pressure collegiate recruiting.  Brown, having fielded offers of scholarship by just about every big school in all the major BCS conferences, including his home state university Georgia Bulldogs, a decision isn’t expected anytime soon.

Brown may be partial to a school like Ohio State even over Georgia.

“A lot of my family is from Ohio.” Brown said to Eleven Warriors. “My Mom grew up as a huge Buckeye fan and my whole family loves Ohio State.”

It’s no coincidence that the Urban Meyer led Buckeyes recently made an offer to Brown.

Even so, the awe of Autzen stadium, the ever changing and limit-pushing sports uniforms coupled with the proximity to Nike headquarters and the facilities Oregon has to offer are rare and, in many facets, second to none.

Brown already possesses the necessary size to be in the NFL. With six more years of playing time, this young man could be at an entirely new level. His college decision will be heavily monitored.

Considering Oregon in this process for Brown is almost certainly a necessity, especially if Brown is looking for a solid platform for launching an NFL future. The University of Oregon has its share of talent and alumni at the NFL level most recently losing highly decorated and school-record holders in running back LaMichael James and the unfortunate early departure of quarterback Darron Thomas.

Even though Brown is being offered a scholarship by the top football schools in the country, he has only taken official visits to Auburn and Maryland with

“plans on [visiting] a bunch of other schools at some point this summer.”

The immediate impact of Brown as an offensive tackle could be huge for the Ducks — literally.

For Duck fans, the critical point is that Oregon has officially offered and Brown has something to think about, but the signing of Brown would simply be another step in the continued Pac-12 success of Oregon, in both recruiting and wins on the football field.

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Hurts More Ways Than One

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Taylor Gelbrich, EDN Sports

The No. 8 Ducks fell to Washington State, losing just their second series of the year. It just so happens to be against another Washington school.

Photo credit: Taylor Gelbrich

One thing was evident all weekend – the injuries to a large part of the Ducks’ starting squad has and will hurt the Ducks.

The lack of depth, both pitching and offensively, for the Ducks has become a glaring problem.

With J.J Altobeli out for some extended period of time, Scott Heineman and Aaron Jones out as well, it will prove to be a tough next few weeks.

But the injury that will hurt the Ducks the most, both in the short and long term, is the injury to Brando Tessar.

You could make an argument for both Jones and Altobeli and what they bring to the table offensively and defensively, but let’s be frank, the Ducks are not an offensive power house. For the Ducks to be successful, they rely on pitching and defense.

Doing the little things well is what has won this team games.

The Ducks are short on pitching already to speak of and now without a shutdown starter for Sundays, the Ducks could have trouble winning series now.

Tessar might have taken a back seat to Alex Keudell and Jake Reed early in the season, because of the numbers they had put up, but Tessar is no slouch by any means.

The guy has a 4-1 record and a 3.58 ERA. He has given up just three more runs than Keudell, and four more than Reed. The motto so far this season has been “as Keudell goes”, so do the Ducks.

But without Tessar in this pivotal part of the season could be disastrous.

The Tessar injury is so pivotal to the Ducks success because it moves Jeff Gold out of his weekday start and into the Sunday role. That means that somebody is going to have to step up and take the weekday starter role and more than likely it will be a inexperienced freshman.

The Ducks have pieced together weekday starts all season and have been successful so far, but is this the blow that brings it all down?

The Ducks are currently 27-12 (11-7) and one game out of first place.

As we have talked about for the last week or so, the Arizona series is going to cause all sorts of chaos in the standing for the Pac-12. The winner of that series will more then likely put themselves into a two team race with UCLA.

The Arizona series is also the series that Tessar is hopeful to be back by from his injury. Oregon is currently tied in second place, but if they can’t hold it together until players get back from injury they could slip down to sixth in the conference standings.

Don’t get me wrong, the Ducks are a great team, but with the number of injuries they have had to deal with so far this season it remains unseen as to how things are going to shape up.

Oregon looked poised to take another series after Keudell and Kyle Garlick willed the Ducks to a 6-2 win on Friday, but a tough eighth inning where the Ducks surrendered six runs was the deciding factor in their 8-3 loss on Saturday.

The Ducks weren’t blown out by any means this weekend, but there were just innings where the Ducks had everything go wrong. Washington State was able to do the little things throughout the last two games of the series to get the W’s.

Though many fans will be looking forward to the Arizona series down in Tucson, the next two weeks leading up to that series will speak more volumes about this team then anything else.

In the mean time, the Ducks will look to focus against Oregon State and California this week.

If Oregon wants to win the series against Cal then they are going to have to have excellent starts from both Reed and Keudell with the offense banged up.

It remains to be seen how the Ducks handle the adversity, but these injuries do in fact hurt in more way than one.

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A Few Thoughts Before I Go…

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— Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor

De'Anthony Thomas will probably rewrite the Oregon football record books before he leaves Eugene. (Photo Credit: Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Lets talk a little sports.

First off, the soap opera between the Oregon football program and the NCAA continues.  Just about two weeks ago, the NCAA came out with findings of recruiting violations between 2008 and 2011.

Undoubtedly, some of you are nervous about what that could mean for the Ducks in the near future.  Well, you never can tell until any penalties are actually levied, but I don’t think any severe harm is going to occur when it’s all said and done.

I’ve always maintained that what likely happened here is that there was stumbling into a grey area.  Do the rules need to be clarified so situations like this never happen again?  Absolutely.

But does Oregon deserve to have wins vacated as well as receive a two-year postseason suspension?  Probably not and they probably won’t.

If you’re still worried, let me ask you something: do you think Chip Kelly would’ve turned down the chance to coach in the NFL if he was going to be in a potential mess?  That’s what I thought.

No, the Ducks will be fine in the end, so you can turn your attention towards wondering how much De’Anthony Thomas will be in 2012. Considering how phenomenal he was last season, it will be interesting to see how many records he breaks in his college career.

Dana Altman and his Ducks could very well wind up in the NCAA Tournament this year. (Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

It’ll also be intriguing to find out how the Oregon men’s basketball team winds up in the postseason. They’ve played well enough, from my standpoint, to warrant getting into the NCAA Tournament.

I know some people will argue that the Pac-12 is a weak conference, and the Ducks didn’t measure up in top non-conference games against Vanderbilt, BYU, and Virginia.  But they weren’t the same team at the start of the year that they are now.

They didn’t have Devoe Joseph in the lineup when the opened at Vandy. It took awhile for the newcomers like Tony Woods and Olu Ashaolu to figure out how to play with Garrett Sim and E.J. Singler.

I’m willing to bet if they were to play these teams again, the Ducks would beat every one of them. (Well, maybe Virginia would be a reach, but not the other two).  Of course, if Oregon wins the Pac-12 Tournament, they’ll be guaranteed a spot in the big dance and we can end the speculating.  Can they do it? We’ll see, but I like their chances.

Jeremy Lin has been one of the top feel good stories so far in 2012. (Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Staying on Oregon hoops for a while longer, some people have argued that Dana Altman should already be considered one of the best coaches in the program’s history.  Now, what Altman has done so far (averaging just over 20 wins in the past two seasons) has certainly exceeded initial expectations.  By the same token, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

He still hasn’t gotten the Ducks into the big tourney yet (though he soon will). Nor has he taken Oregon to the Elite Eight a couple times as Ernie Kent did, or won the whole thing like Howard Hobson.

I’m not trying to demean Altman’s performance by any stretch of the imagination. He’s proven himself to be a solid coach, and I think he could very well go down as one of the greatest in Oregon history.  But like anything else, there are still some chapters in this story before we can provide an ending.

The same can be said for the Knicks’ sensation Jeremy Lin.  Sure, he’s given a lot of folks a reason to watch the NBA again.  With the way he’s been playing, it’s a wonder why New York even considered cutting him off the team.  Heck, what were the Golden State Warriors thinking by letting him go? (Scratch that thought.  I already know why: they’re the Warriors).

However, for people to start comparing Lin to Magic Johnson at this juncture is a little far-fetched. For one thing, Lin has to play at this high level for a full season before we can even start this discussion. Well, that and he needs to show he can do it in a playoff game or two as well.

Still, there’s no question that Lin has been one of the better feel-good stories of the year and you hope he can keep it going.  I’d certainly rather talk about him than LeBron or the despicable Oklahoma City Thunder. (Sorry, but as a long-time Sonics’ fan, I will never root for OKC).

On a closing note, this is my last column at EDN for the foreseeable future. I’m going to continue writing for various outlets while I attend to other business. I may very well end up writing a sports column for this organization again in the near future. Let’s be clear about something: I may be leaving, but I am not going away.

So until next time, I will definitely see you in the bleachers.

 

Ducks Could Be Playing For ‘Madness’…

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— Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor

E.J. Singler scored 23 points against WSU. (Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Could March Madness strike Eugene? After the Oregon men’s last home stand, that is a distinct possibility.  The Ducks destroyed Washington 82-57 on Thursday, and followed it up with a 78-69 victory over Washington State on Saturday.

A big reason for Oregon’s success this season has been the play of E.J. Singler, and that was especially true against the Cougars.  Singler led the Ducks with 23 points by taking advantage of virtually every opportunity he had with the ball in his hands.

“I got some open looks,” he said afterwards. “The team gave me some good passes and I took the shots.”

He took the shots and hit them. More importantly, Singler’s play got the crowd into the action.  Matt Knight Arena has sounded quiet at times this season, a far cry from the enthusiastic crowds at Mac Court. But maybe the way the Ducks are playing will change that, especially now that they’re one game out of first place in the Pac-12.

Dana Altman is happy with the position of his Ducks, but understands there's still a lot of work to do. (Photo Credit: Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

That’s right, despite a couple tough losses in recent weeks (to Oregon State and Colorado), Oregon still has a shot to win the conference. The Ducks might even have to do that to assure themselves a trip to the NCAA Tournament, and they’ve got a couple hard road games in front of them before they can even think about this possibility.

They’ll face Cal on Thursday, and then visit Stanford on Sunday. Neither place has been historically kind to Oregon.  Still, if they can get a split on this trip, the Ducks will be in good shape going into their last three games of the regular season. Head coach Dana Altman is pleased to be in the postseason chase, despite all the work that remains.

“It’s fun to have it be February and still be in the hunt,” Altman explained. “But we still have a long ways to go to be the team in March that we want to be.”

Either way, it should be an interesting three weeks before the Pac-12 Tournament. What do I see happening?  Right now, your guess is as good as mine, but it’ll be fun to watch.

Moving on to another topic, baseball season is right around the corner. That brings up one of the most debated questions in sports: Should Pete Rose be allowed into the Hall of Fame?

There’s no question that Rose was an outstanding player during his long career.  His record of 4,256 hits will never get broken (at least in my lifetime). I also respect the hard-nosed hustle he provided every time he picked up a bat or ran the bases.

He bet on the game, however, and that’s been the long-time cardinal sin in the game of baseball.  That rule has been posted on every clubhouse wall for a reason.  It’s also why he’s serving a lifetime banishment from the sport.

Now, if he were to sincerely apologize for his actions (not that half-baked admission he made to sell a book nine years ago), there might be grounds to let him back into baseball. (As well as give him a shot in the Hall).  Until then, Pete knew what he was doing and is getting exactly what he deserves.

In other matters, someone recently asked me who my favorite NBA team is.  Well, that’s a tricky one.  I really don’t have a team to root for these days, though I do have one that I go against.

Sam Finley respects Kevin Durant, but has no love for his Thunder. (Photo Credit: Brett Deering/Getty Images)

You see, I grew up in the Seattle area and was an avid fan of the SuperSonics.  I remember going to games, and seeing guys like Jack Sikma, Gus Williams, Xavier McDaniel, Gary Payton, and Shawn Kemp.  They were always fun to watch, win or lose.

Unfortunately, some jerk named Clay Bennett (with an assist from the league) bought the team a few years ago and moved them to Oklahoma City. (I highly recommend watching the documentary “Sonicsgate” on the internet for more info on this outrage).  Thus, I openly want to see every team (including the Lakers) knock the stuffing out of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Understand, I have nothing against the players on that team. Kevin Durant is, without question, one of the top five players in the game right now. But I will never, ever, cheer for a squad that is playing in a town it has no business being in.

Maybe when my hometown gets a new NBA franchise (could happen as early as next year), I’ll cool my jets on this subject.  I doubt it, however.

The Sonics were a part of my childhood and they wore green and gold. What colors do the Thunder wear? Blue and some other shade that resembles something that needs to be flushed down the toilet. Yuck.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the bleachers.

 

College Basketball Roundup

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— Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor

Duck Men Get A Huge Victory, Women Take A Step Back

Garrett Sim scored the first eight points of Thursday's game. (Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The Oregon men’s basketball team needed a big win at home and they got it on Thursday night.  A few days after getting beaten in a heart breaker at Colorado, the Ducks took out their frustrations on conference-leading Washington 82-57.  It was a night when everything seem to click for Oregon at Matt Knight Arena.

“We just needed a game like that,” explained forward E.J. Singler. “After losing at Colorado, we knew needed to take the next two at home. We know how big they are, and we just wanted to come out and play with a lot of passion. I thought us playing with a lot of enthusiasm really sparked us.”

Dana Altman loved the home crowd's enthusiasm. (Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The biggest spark, without question, came from guard Garrett Sim.  He scored the first eight points of the game, and was one of three Ducks with 13 points.  Oregon’s ability to jump on the athletic Huskies early was crucial to the victory, as it forced UW to play chase for the remainder of the evening.  Moreover, it provided the home crowd of 9,035 a reason to make plenty of noise.

“We gave the crowd something to cheer about,” said head coach Dana Altman. “Garrett hitting those first shots really got the fans in the game. There was a lot of intensity in the building and that really helped us.”

The win catapulted the Ducks into a three-way tie for third in the Pac-12 conference, as well as place them a game behind Cal and Washington for first place.  Now the Ducks need a similar effort again on Saturday afternoon to stay in the race.  They’ll face Washington State, before heading on the road against Cal and Stanford next week.

Meanwhile, the Oregon women’s team came up just a little short in Seattle on Thursday night.  The Ducks rallied from a 15 point second-half deficit, but it wasn’t enough as Washington held on for a 72-69 victory.

There was one bright spot in the loss: Amanda Johnson had another sensational game.  Johnson put up 26 points, and it’s clear she’s recovered well from the thumb injury that sidelined her for a few weeks.

The loss snapped Oregon’s two game winning streak (over Utah and Colorado last week) and now have an overall record of 13-11 (5-7 in the Pac-12).  The Ducks will look to regroup against 10-14 Washington State in Pullman on Saturday.

OSU Men Fall, Beaver Women Keep Rising

Jared Cunningham scored 33 points on Thursday. (Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Jared Cunningham can’t do it by himself.  The Beavers’ point guard led his team with 33 points, but his team got flattened 83-73 against Washington State on Thursday night.  A shocking outcome for two reasons.  First of all, Oregon State was playing in Corvallis.  Secondly, it seemed like the Beavers were starting to play together and this effort was a setback.

Perhaps on a night when Cunningham put up great numbers, it is this single digit that doomed Oregon State:  Zero.  That’s the number of points the Oregon State bench scored in the first half. As a result, the Cougars were able to build a 15 point advantage and remained in control the rest of the way.

Now the Beavers find themselves with a 5-7 Pac-12 record (15-9 overall), and tied for eighth in the conference standings. If that wasn’t bad enough, Oregon State will be facing a very dangerous Washington squad on Saturday.  The Pac-12 leaders took one on the chin in Eugene on Thursday, and will no doubt bring their ‘A’ game to Gill Coliseum as a result. In other words, head coach Craig Robinson had better make the necessary adjustments or it could be a long day.

Craig Robinson and his Beavers will have their work cut out for them with UW. (Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Over on the women’s side, there’s plenty to smile about for OSU.  The Beavers won their fifth game in a row on Thursday night, defeating Washington State 51-39 in Pullman.  Just consider it one more impressive notch on this year’s resume for them.

Scott Rueck’s team now has an overall 16-7 record, and now finds themselves in third place in the Pac-12 standings.  The Beavers will visit Washington on Saturday, before a real measuring stick comes next week.  That’s when the always tough Bay Area schools (Cal and Stanford) visit Corvallis. Should be an interesting few games for this bunch.

Ducks Can’t Look Back On Bad Call…

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— Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor

E.J. Singler shouldn't have been called for a foul this past Saturday. (Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Usually, I will not say that officiating was the reason for why a game was won or lost. It is true that some referees are a little better than others, but that shouldn’t decide matters as long as teams play as they’re supposed to play.

That wasn’t the case on Saturday night at Colorado, however.  The Oregon men’s basketball team had the chance for another road sweep in front of them.  They were tied 71-71 with mere seconds to go, and it looked like the matter would be settled in overtime.

Unfortunately for the Ducks, a rather bizzare whistle was blown and changed the scenario.  It appeared that E.J. Singler had cleanly blocked a shot by Colorado guard Nate Tomlinson. Instead, a foul was inexplicably called with one second remaining.

Tomlinson went to the line and hit one free throw and that was enough for the Buffaloes to edge Oregon 72-71.  Sure, that one play alone did not doom the Ducks in the end.  They missed some shots that could’ve been made, etc.

Still, in all my years watching basketball, the referee usually won’t make a call in the final seconds unless someone hits the ground or takes one in the face.  Anything less than that, an  official will let the guys play.

That’s what should have happened here, especially when the game is deciding where teams wind up in the Pac-12 Standings.  In all honesty, Colorado probably had the edge if the game had gone to OT.  Singler, Tony Woods, and Olu Ashaolu were all in foul trouble late and losing one of them would’ve seriously hurt their chances of winning.

That’s not the point here. The issue is that the game was decided on a dubious whistle. It’s the type of move that cheapens the outcome of events and makes fans wonder if the sport is on the up and up.

Eli Manning deserves to be recognized as one of the game's best quarterbacks. (Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

I’m not saying that college basketball is headed the way of the WWE over this matter. (Far from it).  But it’s something that the Pac-12 needs to make sure doesn’t happen again.  No matter who you wanted to see win over the weekend, you have to admit that it is never a good thing when something like this occurs.

Regardless, the Ducks can’t look back on this bad call for too long.  With an overall 16-7 record (7-4 in Pac-12 play), this team still has a shot at winning the conference.  Failing that, they can also finish as one of the top four in the standings (guaranteeing them a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament).

That said, it won’t be any easy task at hand this week. Oregon has been inconsistent at home, and they will need a sweep to stay in the hunt. Considering how well Washington (who they face on Thursday) has played as of late, that’s not exactly a get-well card.  Ditto for Washington State on Saturday, who can be dangerous at times.

By the same token, this is also where a good team can show what they’re made of. If the Ducks can perform well at Matt Knight Arena, then they just might begin setting up a legitimate argument for getting in the NCAA Tournament.  If they don’t, it could be a struggle to make the NIT.  The next few weeks should be very interesting, indeed.

Now let’s talk a little bit about the Super Bowl before I wrap this one up. As predicted here last week, the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots 21-17.  Okay, so I was off on the score (I said the G-Men would take it 28-24), but it otherwise went as I thought it would go.

You’ve got to tip your hat to Eli Manning. For years, he’s been doubted and has lived in the shadow of his brother Peyton.  At the end of the day, however, he’s won two Super Bowls and has been named the MVP in both of them.

Tom Brady is still one of the best quarterbacks ever despite Sunday's setback. (Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

Now, you can legitimately argue that his big bro (when healthy) is still a much better quarterback. But how can you not say that Eli is now one of the best signal callers in the NFL today?  If this latest win doesn’t give him that deserved recognition in your eyes, I don’t know what will.

Over on the Patriots’ side, I’ve heard some post-game murmurs that this loss has ‘diminished’ Tom Brady’s legacy as one of the best quarterbacks of all-time.  Diminished?  How?  The guy has started in five Super Bowls and has won three of them.

Furthermore, saying that this setback ruins his overall body of work implies that Brady won’t ever play in another one of these games again.  For the record, I see him getting back to the Super Bowl at least one more time.  If he wins that one, it’ll mean taking four out of six tries.

Even if he doesn’t, Brady has still established himself as one of the top ten quarterbacks of all time. ‘Nuff said.

Oh, not quite.  Someone asked me who I believe are the top five quartebacks I’ve ever seen play.  Well, here’s my list:  5) Tom Brady. 4) Dan Marino. 3) Dan Fouts. 2) Joe Montana. 1) John Elway.

I know that list won’t make a lot of folks happy, and I’ll clarify my rankings on of these days. Unfortunately, I’ve run out of time and word space.

So until next time, I’ll see you in the bleachers.

College Hoops Roundup 2-2-2012

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— Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor

Duck Men and Women Look To Get Back On Track

Tyrone Nared believes his Ducks have a better sense of urgency going into this road trip. (Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

It wasn’t the way the Ducks wanted to go out on the road.  The Oregon men’s basketball team fell 76-71 against Oregon State on Sunday.  The defeat to their state rivals snapped the Ducks’ four game winning streak as well as knocked them out of a tie for first place in the Pac-12.  But forward Tyrone Nared claims they’re not thinking about that at the moment.

“Our main focus is to bounce back from a terrible loss,” said Nared. “We feel like we beat ourselves with 23 turnovers. We were at home, and we didn’t take advantage of it. So we’re going to be very focused against Utah.”

Without question, sloppy ball-handling was a big reason why the Ducks fell to the Beavers. The fact that they couldn’t throw the ball into the Willamette River for a spell didn’t help, either.  Oregon only shot around 38 percent for the game, and head coach Dana Altman was not pleased with the lackluster output on offense.

Dana Altman stressed that his team has been better on the road than at home as of late. (Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

“Our execution was not good offensively,” Altman stated. “That’s my fault. We didn’t have guys in the right spots, and I’m very disappointed.  A lot of that goes to Oregon State. Their athleticism put us on our heels, and we just didn’t execute.”

Still, the Ducks have a 6-3 conference record and are only a game out of first place. By the same token, they know that every game is critical to their postseason hopes.  Thus, there has been a sense of urgency in practice this week.

“It’s been a little stressful,” Nared explained. “Anytime you have losses like our last one, we hurt our chances of making the tournament. That’s our goal right now, obviously.”

Fortunately for Oregon, they’ve been good on the road recently. They swept the Arizona schools on the last trip, and will need a similar performance this week. The Ducks will first visit Utah (15-6, 2-7 in Pac 12) on Thursday night, before getting what might be a tougher joust against Colorado (14-7, 6-3 in Pac-12) on Saturday.

“We’ve had some good road performances,” said Altman. “This team doesn’t seem to get overly-excited playing at home, and doesn’t seem to get too tight on the road. Going on the road has not hurt us in the past. We’ve got five more on the road, and they are all going to be tough.”

Meanwhile, the Oregon women are also coming off a tough loss to their state rivals.  The Ducks fell to the Beavers 67-60 last Saturday in Corvallis.

Oregon now has an overall record of 11-10 and is 3-6 in Pac-12 play.  Still, there is a ray of hope for the Ducks as they enter the second half of the conference season.  After missing 11 games due to a hand injury, forward Amanda Johnson returned to the lineup over the weekend, and led the team in scoring with 16 points in the defeat.

Head coach Paul Westhead will need Johnson to remain healthy for Oregon to hold onto their currently slim postseason hopes.  They’ll be at home this week, hosting Utah on Thursday night and Colorado on Saturday afternoon.

Beavers Should Be Confident This Week

Craig Robinson should have a fired up bunch after three straight wins. (Photo Credit: Pool/Getty Images)

Craig Robinson’s crew got a big win on Sunday. The Beaver men upset the Oregon Ducks 76-71 at Matt Knight Arena, and it should provide a spark as they head into the second half of conference play.

Oregon State is now 14-7 on the season (4-5 in the Pac-12) and has put themselves in a realistic position for a possible postseason bid.  A big reason for the Beavers’ recent three game winning streak has been the play of their very athletic guards.  Jared Cunningham led the way with 27 points against Oregon, and Ahmad Starks was second with 15.

Ahmad Starks had 15 points against the Ducks. (Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

They’ll need a similar effort this week as they head out on the road.  The Beavers will not start the trip with an easy one on Thursday when they take on Colorado.  OSU will close out their road swing at Utah on Saturday.  Still, after a big win in Eugene, this is a team that should be brimming with confidence as they seem to be playing together at the right time.

The same can probably said about the Oregon State women’s team.  The Beavers defeated Oregon 67-60 at Gill Coliseum last Saturday, as they continue to play well above expectations.

Ali Gibson led the way once again this past weekend.  She scored a career-high 23 points against the Ducks with 15 coming from three-pointers.

Oregon State is now 13-7 on the season (4-5 in Pac-12 play) and hopes to keep up their winning ways with two home contests this week.  They’ll host Colorado on Thursday evening, and then play Colorado on Saturday.

 

Super Bowl Will Have ‘Ducky’ Feel To It…

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— Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor

Spencer Paysinger (pictured left) has 11 tackles for the Giants this year. (Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)

We’ll get to the men’s Civil War basketball game in a minute.  In the meantime, you didn’t ask me for this piece of information, but whomever wins the Super Bowl on Sunday will result in a former Oregon player getting a ring.  That’s right, the big game in Indianapolis will have a ‘Ducky’ feel to it.

On the New England side, there is safety Patrick Chung.  One of the best defensive backs in Oregon history has performed admirably at the pro level.  He’s made a lot of big plays for the Patriots with an interception here or a special teams play there.

Patrick Chung has a knack for making plays for the Patriots. (Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

However, Spencer Paysinger has also quietly established himself with the New York Giants in his rookie season. The ex-Duck linebacker has 11 tackles this year, and should make a lot more before it’s all said and done.

Thus, with both teams having a U of O alum on their roster, I can neutralize that as a reason to take one side over the other.  So let me tell you how I see this coming out in objective fashion.

On paper, it looks like the Patriots will roll in this one. They remember how the Giants ruined their undefeated season in that Super Bowl a few years ago, and a lot of people will tell you it’s not smart to bet against Tom Brady.  Furthermore, the Giants snuck into the playoffs with  a 9-7 record.

Ahhh, that’s where it gets interesting. Sure, the Giants didn’t have the prettiest of regular seasons.  Nonetheless, they won when they had to and they seem to be playing their best football at the right time.

The matchup between Brady and Eli Manning is a compelling subplot to this story, too.  Brady has won three Super Bowls, and will undoubtedly go down as one of the five greatest quartebacks of all time.

Meanwhile, Eli Manning has lived in the shadow of his big brother Peyton for years.  People sometimes forget that he, like Peyton, also has a championship ring on his finger.  If he wins on Sunday, it’ll mean he’ll have two in his collection. (Trust me, big brother will trade in his records for that honor).

So how does this play out?  I see a tough battle and, having a lot of friends who are Patriots’ fans, it would be easy for me to say I’m rooting for a good game. Admittedly, my head is saying ‘New England’ while my heart is saying ‘New York.’

Jared Cunningham led OSU with 27 points. (Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

But I’ll go with the latter this time.  This one will go back and forth and history will repeat itself.  The Giants upset the Patriots once more 28-24. 

Now let’s talk about that Civil War game. These match ups have gotten more competitive in recent years, and the one at Matt Arena definitely went down to the wire. But who saw this coming?  Oregon State beating Oregon 76-71?  I certainly saw a tight affair, but thought the Ducks would take it.

A big reason for the Beavers’ upset was the 27 points from Jared Cunningham. He’s become their playmaker, and hit some crucial three-pointers down the stretch.

“It’s our rival school and it was a big game with a great crowd, ” said Cunningham afterwards. “We had a lot of Beaver fans out there.  I think we turned the corner with this win, especially with it being the Civil War game. It means a lot to Beaver nation.”

OSU may have turned a corner on their season, indeed. They’re now 4-5 in Pac-12 play (14-7 overall), and made a statement by beating their arch-enemies on their own floor. If they can perform like this the rest of the way, there might be a few more shockers before it’s all over.

Dana Altman said his team has work to do on the road. (Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

For Oregon, however, the feeling has to be very bittersweet. Yes they’re still very much in the Pac-12 race with a 6-3 conference record (15-6 overall).  But the Ducks didn’t play like a contender over the weekend.

Oregon sputtered around in the first half, and some of their mistakes finally came back to bite them in the second.  Devoe Joseph did his part with 26 points, but received little help. Still, he argued it wasn’t lack of scoring that did his team in.

“It was more about defense and turnovers than offense,” Joseph explained. “It is disappointing. Any time you play at home, you expect to win. But we weren’t aggressive. It’s what we didn’t do, not what they did.”

He’s right. The two things that have been the Ducks achilles’ heel bit them hard against OSU.  Their inconsistency on defense was apparent as Cunningham and Ahmad Starks (who had 15 points) lit up the scoreboard. And you’re not going to beat many teams when you turn the ball over 23 times.  It’s something that Oregon will have to minimize when they head out on road against Colorado and Utah this week to keep their postseason hopes on track.

“We can’t lose home games and be in the huddle,” said Oregon head coach Dana Altman. “We have some serious work on the road this upcoming week.”

Whatever happens, the situation in the Pac-12 just got a little more interesting.  How it all winds up is anyone’s guess.

Now, here’s a quick item before I wrap this up. Last Friday, EDN launched a live blog for what we think is the biggest game in prep basketball.  We’ll be doing it again this coming Thursday night when Sheldon visits Marist.  Check out the sports section about 7pm that evening, and see how this game between two of the state’s best teams is covered.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the bleachers.