Oregon football and basketball have a striking similarity in scheduling: both teams were given fairly easy opponents at home to build up confidence and work out kinks for the first two games, but must travel to a hostile environment for the third game. With the football team’s first test, in Nebraska, looming an Oregon basketball fan can’t help but think of the November 15th game in Waco vs the Baylor Bears.
Oregon’s basketball team will likely dominate the first couple games at home vs Northwest Christian and Army, and will probably be favored going into their first road game vs Baylor as well. However, no win is guaranteed in college basketball, especially on the road. That’s why the game vs Baylor is especially important in setting the tone for the Ducks’ season.
Baylor should not be Oregon’s toughest challenge during the upcoming season, but the Ducks should not take the Bears lightly. The team has made the NCAA tournament for the past three years, making it as far as the Sweet Sixteen in 2014. The Bears will be playing their best to prove that they are still a worthy opponent to top teams after being upset in the first round by Yale in March.
Last season, Baylor had a solid record of 14-5 at home in 2015-16. Their best home win was a 100-91 overtime victory against an Iowa State team who was ranked at 13 at the time of the game. Oregon will probably be ranked higher and will be much more ready than Iowa State, but still need to be cautious and not treat Baylor as an easy win.
Baylor has the best chance of giving an elite Oregon team an upset at the beginning of the season, and the biggest reason for this chance is the probable absence of Oregon’s top scorer Dillon Brooks. During this off-season, Brooks had foot surgery and is out indefinitely. The Ducks don’t know when Brooks will be back, but he is expected to be out at least through November. The Ducks have plenty of talent on their team and should not struggle, even without Brooks on the court. There’s no reason to believe that Oregon’s other players won’t step up their game, but the team must be careful to not let Baylor take advantage of their biggest weakness going into the game.
This early season game will serve as a preview of Oregon’s season. If Oregon does what they should do and beat Baylor handily, then the Ducks will have their first testament to back up the hype. Even if Baylor pulls off the upset, Oregon’s title hopes will not disappear. However, critics will deem this team overrated. Oregon’s chances of starting March Madness with a high seed will also start to drop if they do not win the games they should dominate. Much like the football team’s third game, Oregon basketball will get their first taste of real competition — and will start to set the tone for the season — in their third game vs Baylor.