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Oregon Ducks Basketball a Foot Away From National Title Contention

Oregon is noticeably better on offense with Dillon Brooks on the court. It’s tough to imagine a scenario in which the Ducks make the Final Four if he can’t stay healthy

NCAA Basketball: California at Oregon Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

On January 19th Oregon tied the school record for longest winning streak after defeating California 86-63, a record set back in 1913. The only thing on Oregon’s mind after the game however was the injury star forward Dillon Brooks sustained at the end of the first half. Many fans left the arena worried that the team had just lost Brooks for the season, as he re-injured the foot he broke over the offseason. The team and fans were relieved to hear that he had only suffered a left foot sprain but had no timetable for return. Head coach Dana Altman announced on Tuesday that Brooks would be a game time decision for Thursday’s game against Utah. While Oregon fans want Brooks to come back as quickly as possible, they would also like to make sure he’s one-hundred percent healthy before rushing back on the court. It would be wise of the Ducks to use Brooks conservatively while rehabbing from his injury, as their tournament hopes will likely rely on whether Brooks is healthy in March.

Oregon hasn’t really struggled in the wins column without Brooks this season, going 3-1 with the one loss being at Baylor. While that hasn’t really been an issue yet, it is worth noting that the only team of interest Oregon has beaten without Brooks is 16-4 Valparaiso. Of course, Oregon is a tier or two ahead of Valparaiso so the team should have no problem winning handily. The only elite team Oregon has had to face without Brooks was Baylor and that was an ugly game that resulted in a 17-point loss for the Ducks. While the team has greatly improved since November, it still is concerning that Oregon was manhandled without their top scorer.

Even without Brooks, Oregon has been able to hold its own defensively, but the offense has not had its usual firepower. While opponents points per game has remained mostly the same with and without Brooks (62.8 with, 62.3 without), Oregon’s points per game have been an entirely different story. In the sixteen games with Brooks, Oregon has averaged 82.1 points per game on 49. 3 percent shooting. In the four games without, those numbers drop to 71.3 points per game on 43.1% shooting (Stats via CSNNW.com). It shouldn’t be seen as a coincidence that Oregon didn’t finally find a groove on offense until Brooks had been back for five games and finally gotten into the swing of things. It also should be noted that in the one game since Brooks sprained his foot, Oregon scored under 80 points for the first time in six games and under 70 for the first time in ten. Oregon was also outscored in the second half of its game against Stanford, the first time the team has been outscored in a half since the second half of the UCLA game on December 28th. Oregon needs Dillon Brooks. Just his presence alone opens up opportunities for the offense that don’t exist when he’s not playing.

While Oregon should be relieved that Brooks’ injury is not serious, the team should be careful about his usage. The Ducks will be tempted to use him as much as possible with seven of their final eleven games being on the road, but they should probably conserve him for the postseason. Brooks will likely sit out or play limited minutes on Thursday, but the team should keep an eye on him for the rest of the regular season, as the pressure of Oregon’s postseason success will likely rest on that foot of his.