Oregon did not open the Maui Jim Maui invitational the way that it wanted to. The Ducks lost 65-61 to the Georgetown Hoyas, but the final score did not tell the story. Georgetown went into halftime with a seventeen point lead, only allowing Oregon to take the lead briefly about halfway into the second half. Oregon’s defense played well — especially in the second half— but the offense struggled as badly as it did against Baylor, shooting only 39% from the field.
Oregon didn’t respond well the next day against Tennessee. Oregon only shot 34% from the field in a 69-65 overtime victory. A casual fan would maybe look at the score thinking that this was a hard-fought game between two talented teams, but Tennessee is one of the worst teams in the SEC, only 1-3 at the time of the Oregon loss. To put it simply, it was a pathetic performance for an Oregon team that started the season with national championship hopes.
Oregon dominated its final game of the Maui Invitational against Connecticut to finish in 5th place for the tournament, which hopefully gave the Ducks some much needed confidence, but there are still many issues that are needed to be resolved. Oregon’s two losses have been to teams that Oregon should’ve been able to beat fairly easily, especially against Georgetown, but were instead dominated in both contests. Oregon is also averaging an unacceptable 15.7 turnovers per game, ranking 336th in the nation.
Despite these disappointing games from the Ducks, there is still plenty of reason to be optimistic about this team. Dillon Brooks made his season debut against Georgetown, and is finally starting to get back in the rhythm of the Ducks’ offense again. Oregon has also shown its ability to dominate teams when Chris Boucher is scoring. One could make an argument that the senior is the most valuable player on Oregon’s roster. He already dominates teams defensively every single game as a rim protector, averaging 3 blocks per game, but when he’s playing well offensively, Oregon looks to be almost unstoppable.
Early this season, Oregon has shown a bit of a lack of discipline on offense, often not moving enough and settling for too many threes that not enough players excel at enough to hit frequently. Dana Altman is already showing his ability to adapt to new situations by replacing senior Casey Benson in the starting lineup with true freshman Payton Pritchard. Pritchard has already shown a tremendous ability to lead the Ducks’ offense and is possibly the best pure shooter on the team. His current percentages from the field don’t exactly jump off the page, but when one watches the Ducks, it’s obvious to see that he will be a valuable asset for Oregon when the tournament rolls around.
Oregon probably won’t be as dominant as many expected before the season, it probably will not receive a number one seed for the second year in a row, but that does not mean the the Ducks will not be a threat for March Madness. It’s still way too early to predict anyone as the clear favorite for even the PAC-12, let alone the NCAA Tournament. Oregon’s early season losses will be learning experiences for a team that’s still one of the deepest in the nation. The Ducks still have one of the best coaches in the nation at the helm, and at their healthiest, will be ready to compete for a national championship.