Thursday, December 16, 2010

game preview: Oregon

Date/Time: December 17; 8:00

TV: Comcast Sportsnet

History against the Ducks: 0-0

Last matchup: never

Last game: UVA 54, Radford 44 (12/7); UO 74, Jacksonville St. 56 (12/13)

Opposing blogs: Addicted to Quack

KenPom stats:

National rank: UVA #84; UO #92
Offense: UVA #61; UO #107
Defense: UVA #124; UO #83

The worst part of the UVA athletic year is almost over, but the wait should be worth it. In one of the best matchups of Friday evening and one of the best tests of the readiness of this UVA squad, Oregon visits the JPJA for the first basketball game ever between these two schools. Getting a win would be a big boost for the team and the conference.


- Win the Scott-Catron battle. Like UVA, Oregon's top player is a power forward. Joevan Catron is a more efficient scorer than Scott, but Scott is a better rebounder and two inches taller. Both are very experienced seniors. Look for Scott to try out one of his favorite moves - the fallaway jumper from the post - against Catron, and if it's successful, Oregon won't have an answer for Scott all night long.

- Crash the defensive boards hard, and ignore the offensive glass. Tony Bennett emphasizes getting back on defense over crashing the offensive boards, and this is a good game to play that strategy hard. Denying Oregon the fast break will be important. On the flip side, Oregon is a short team. One of the shortest in the country. Bennett will be tempted to go small to match up with Oregon's quickness, but there's something to be said for having a tree in the middle to clean up missed shots. Oregon will have a very hard time getting second-chance points if our taller players are clogging the lane because they're all after the rebound. If UVA proves too successful at getting defensive rebounds, Oregon will be forced to get back on defense and abandon the press, and that tilts the game just the way Bennett likes it.

- Big lead early. Those are prone to disappearing (see the Wichita State game) but less so here. Oregon is playing its first game away from friendly crowds (they did play one neutral site game - in Portland) and though the crowd will probably be a little sparse due to the end of the term, it's still Oregon's first exposure this year to some real travel. Jumping out to an early lead should help remind Oregon that they're not in the Mac anymore.

- Mark E.J. Singler. UVA has been susceptible to the three, and Singler is Oregon's only threat from deep. It might be wise to make an exception to the pack-line here; Singler's defender should stick closer to him than the pack-line allows. Limiting his ability to hit from behind the arc will essentially take the three entirely out of Oregon's arsenal.


- Miss too many three-pointers. In a game like this, hitting your jump shots is even more important than usual. Missed threes make for long rebounds, which can set up a chain reaction of badness: long rebound leads to fast break, fast break leads to easy layup, easy layup leads to a press, press leads to turnovers and the chance to build up a lot of momentum the wrong way. Three-pointers are fine if they're letting UVA shoot open ones, but if at all possible UVA should look for points in the paint first.

- Finals hangover. Typically UVA plays a supercrap opponent in this first game after final exams, and typically they struggle anyway. Last year it was NJIT, a hideous game that infuriated Tony Bennett. A couple years before that, UVA let Hampton play them point for point. In each game, the first half was played apparently in a post-exam fog, and only in the second half did the team pull away for the win. Here, a post-exam fog will probably mean a 20-point halftime deficit.

- Don't take care of the ball. Oregon is coached by Dana Altman, who brought a love of the full-court press to Oregon where it matches well with their smaller, quicker lineup. Oregon is good at creating turnovers and doesn't give up too many, either. They play a much faster-paced game than UVA prefers - not because of a frenetic offensive style, but because they turn steals into fast-break points. UVA tends to be either excellent or disastrous when it comes to taking care of the ball; the former is preferred.


Fairly well, I think, but by a slim margin. With Sammy Zeglinski back in the lineup and essentially at full-go, that's an extra veteran ballhandler in the rotation whose presence will give Bennett some options. And Joevan Catron is a good player, but in this game the Hoos have the best player on the court in Mike Scott, who's outstanding in all facets of the game.

The Ducks were very competitive in a loss to Missouri, but that was on their home court and they've also struggled in games they shouldn't, losing a surprise one to San Jose State. They're also a dead-terrible three-point shooting team. Only E.J. Singler's performance of better than 50% from behind the arc prevents them from an atrocious aggregate number. On paper, this is a game UVA should win, particularly if they can dictate the pace. Still: young team, finals hangover, empty-ish gym, etc. etc. I like the odds of a win, and this is the kind of game that if UVA can pull it off, it'll be another step toward banishment of a lot of old, bad habits.

No comments: