Tonight, the UCLA Bruins head to Eugene, Oregon for a game against the Oregon Ducks at 6 pm PT.
At this time of year, the game against Oregon tonight was supposed to be a battle between the Pac-12’s top teams ranked in the top 25. Instead, it is two teams in the midst of chaotic and disappointing seasons. Oregon has an excuse: injures. UCLA has a chance to right the ship with an Interim coach.
How bad are Oregon’s injuries? Well, here is a bit from their official notes:
For at least this weekend, the Ducks will only have eight scholarship players available, plus a couple of walk-ons. Bol Bol is out for the year after suffering a foot injury in December. Kenny Wooten suffered a broken jaw Dec. 21 at Baylor. After the fall term, Abu Kigab announced he would transfer from Oregon. Combined, that trio averaged 30.2 points, 17.2 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game. Bol was Oregon’s top scorer (21.0 ppg), rebounder (9.6 rpg) and shot blocker (2.7 bpg), while Wooten is the Ducks’ No. 2 rebounder (4.9 rpg) and shot blocker (1.6 bpg).
Yikes. But Dana Altman is a very good, if ethically challenged, coach. He is trying to find ways to win. Defense and defensive pressure are the keys for this year’s Ducks. From Oregon’s game notes again:
Oregon leads the Pac-12 in scoring defense (63.6 points per game) and field goal percentage defense (.383). The Ducks have held all but one opponent (Oregon State) below 50 percent shooting from the field, while nine opponents haven’t reached 40 percent from the field.
But, here is the rub: the one opponent to shoot better than 50% was the last one. Oregon is not the same without Bol Bol and Wooten. I watched part of the Oregon-Oregon State game. Oregon was getting blown out until Oregon State was baffled by their press. That has been Altman’s desperation solution. One last time from the game notes:
Oregon has had double digit steals in back-to-back games, including a season-high 14 at Boise State on Dec. 29. The Ducks had just one game (San Diego) with double digit steals the first 12 games of the season.
At #45 overall and #31 on defense, the Oregon Ducks are still ahead of the UCLA Bruins in Kenpom’s rankings to UCLA’s 73 and on the new NCAA NET rankings where they are #81 to UCLA’s #89. But, here is the thing: UCLA is trending the right way with two wins and better play. Oregon is trending the wrong way as injuries are forcing them to do desperate things like press.
Oregon almost always beat Alford at home. The only Bruin win came in Alford’s first year with a team of Ben Howland’s guys. Will things be different this year? Honestly, they should. Oregon has been unlucky and is hurting.