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Hoops Gameday Roundup: Ducks/Kent Under Pressure, Love Note For Rago & Mustafa's Journey

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Let's get right to the game day news. We have talked a little about how the Ducks have been struggling this season (well they have been struggling ever since Aaron Brooks left town). It sounds like the pressure is not only ratcheting up on the players but also on Ernie Kent. From the Oregonian:

As if five consecutive losses aren’t pressure enough, there’s the countdown to the opening of Matthew Knight Arena, at 336 days and ticking …

"That’s a factor,’’ Oregon athletic director Mike Bellotti said. "But I think that’s always secondary to the coach-player relationship, player development and, you know, the success of the program. Success can be measured in a variety of different ways.’’

The most readily apparent, of course, is the Pacific-10 Conference standings, in which the Ducks (10-9, 2-5 Pac-10) share last place. The losses are putting mounting pressure on the program, which creates more losses – including the loss of momentum going into the new arena.

Tajuan Porter, who is under more pressure than any other player, says it’s translating into "robotic’’ play.

"(We’re) thinking a lot, being robotic,’’ Porter said. "(The coaches) might tell you one thing, but you’re out there playing, you’ve got to make adjustments. We’ve just got to stop being robotic.’’

This kind of game scares me. I'd feel a little better if we had team led by veteran leadership of proven Ben Ball warriors in this team. We don't. Too many times in this type of situation we have imploded due to the team coming out without any fire, passion, defensive intensity and focus. I hope I am proven totally wrong but just don't have any kind of confidence in our players.

But don't worry guys. Read Marcia Smith today. That's right one of Southern California's worst sports columnists (that's saying something considering the quality of sports writing in Southern California's traditional media) penned a love note for Ragovic in the OC Register today (emphasis added just for fun):

Going into Thursday night's game at Oregon, Dragovic leads the Bruins (9-10, 4-3) in Pac-10 scoring, having averaged 13.7 points in the past seven games and reaching double figures in eight of the nine past contests. After an early season slump, he is their shooter again.

His three-point shot is back to having the kind of arc that kindergarteners' can use as a template for their rainbows. His touch has returned. His confidence is steeled.

Guess Marcia failed her math classes in college as well. Let's see Rago is still shooting only 31 percent from the 3 point line for the season. Sure he is shooting better on paper during the Pac-10 season at 44% (15 for 34). But look at those numbers closely. He went 9 for 12 against ASU and Wash State (a team he did well against last season as well) but went 6 for 22 (27%) in rest of the Pac-10 games so far this season. Of course we are not even talking about his defense, which we always presumed was one of the essential requirements for a player to get in Howland's rotation. But none of that matters for Marcia who is swooning all over Rago for being a "shooter again."

The article - which Marica probably wants you to read with John Tesh's piano music in the background - doesn't really provide any basketball related explanation of why Howland has given this guy so much time on the court, despite being an obvious defensive liability for his entire career in Westwood. Guess he did have one decent (defensive) game against Washington State this past weekend, but given his track record there is no reason to think he will come through again till sometime next month this season. Hope I am wrong.

Thankfully there are other guys on the team who presents a little better storylines than Rago. The LA Times has a solid piece on Mustafa's journey through UCLA:

He spent the rest of the weekend (following Washington homestand - BN) celebrating in his own way: "I studied presidential communication, its role and how the media impacts the messages by the president. . . ."

Abdul-Hamid's world extends beyond the doors at Pauley Pavilion.

He was an intern in Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office and has also worked for Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. In Morocco, he said, he studied "representations of geopolitical conflict in Arab and Western news media" when he wasn't searching for a place to play basketball.

Abdul-Hamid eventually found not only a court but a workout buddy as well -- Hicham Arzouki, who resided in an apartment near the church.

"He came down and we shot a little bit, then played," Abdul-Hamid recalled. "Hicham is the most genuine person I have ever met. His family sent me home with gifts, food, pastries, embroidered things. They are good people. One of the best friendships I have ever had came through basketball."

His increased role with UCLA came through hard work.

The Times has rest of the story, which by now is familiar to many here on BN. It will be very interesting to see how Hamid handles added mins on the road. I am going to assume he is going to get same amount mins today since last we heard Jerime Anderson was still questionable for tonight's game. It is going to be different for him on the road where he will not have encouragement of a student section that adores him (for all the right reasons). Oregon guards, despite their recent struggles, have the ability to create havoc with their athleticism and quick. Mustafa and rest of his team-mates will have their work cut out for him.

The tip off tonight is scheduled for 7:30 pm PST. The game will be on FSN and Prime Ticket. We will see you in the game thread which will go up about half an hour before the game.