It feels like it was forever ago when Oregon’s offense had a complete lack of identity, doesn’t it?
The Ducks started the season 5-2, but one wouldn’t be able to tell just watching the offense play. The Ducks’ shooting percentages were nothing short of abysmal, shooting above 45% only twice and below 40% three times in the team’s first seven games. Oregon only outscored opponents by a total of 34 points during the first seven games, which pales in comparison to Pac-12 rival UCLA outscoring opponents by a total of 186 points in the same amount of games. During the final game of Oregon’s poor offensive stretch — a narrow victory over Boise State — offensive star Dillon Brooks scored only five points on 1-6 shooting. It was a surprise to those watching that Oregon came out of that game with a victory, as they would surely have lost that one to plenty of other teams. This moral loss was the moment Oregon turned itself around and became the juggernaut it’s had the potential of becoming.
In the ten games following Boise State, Oregon has won all ten by a combined 229 points. During this stretch, Oregon has only shot below 45% twice (one of which being a 44.8% performance against UCLA) and has shot over 50% five times. Of course, some of this success can be attributed to an easier schedule. Oregon played five of its first seven games against teams currently ranked in the top 100 on KenPom.com, and have only played three such teams in the ten games following. However, the drastic changes in field goal percentage indicates more than just an easing of schedule, it shows a team finding its way offensively.
An interesting strategy Oregon has been trying as of late is bringing star forward Chris Boucher off the bench as the sixth man with Dillon Brooks starting at the power forward, and it appears to have paid off on both sides of the floor so far. In fact, Oregon’s most used lineup in the last five games has been the one in which Boucher is on the bench and Brooks is playing the four. Oregon had its two best wins of the season against UCLA and USC while starting that lineup and have used it for all of its conference games so far. It seems to have created a boost for Oregon’s offense, as it has scored at least 80 points in four of the five games, while only scoring above 80 points five times in the twelve games prior. This isn’t to say that Oregon is better offensively without Boucher in the lineup. It just means that Oregon relies on a more offense-heavy lineup to start the game to get a quick start, which makes sense given the number of slow starts Oregon had to start the year. In a way it’s a good strategy for Oregon to keep its best defender on the bench for the first part of the game when teams are the most sloppy, only to bring him onto the court once opposing offenses have started to settle down.
As conference play continues, Oregon needs to hope that it can keep up its offensive barrage. Oregon has already shown that it has difficulty keeping up with mediocre teams when the offense isn’t clicking. The Duck’s defense can keep them in most games, but a struggling offense could lead to a nail-biter against even one of the worst teams in the Pac-12. Anything can happen in conference play, but if Oregon’s offense can continue to play the way it has, it’s difficult to see any of the lowly Pac-12 teams pulling off a major upset.