TV: Pac-12 Networks
As I detailed earlier this week, the Oregon Ducks have been one of the most improved teams in the conference. That doesn't mean that they are suddenly world beaters - the Ducks had such a long way to climb that vast improvement might still leave them as a sub .500 team in Pac-12 play. But last year it was essentially impossible to imagine them beating Cal, while this year an upset might fall into the realm of the reasonably possible.
What has Oregon done differently other than add another talented freshman in Chrishae Rowe? Well, they're also healthier and a bit more experienced. So far, the real difference has been the rapid improvement in everything the Ducks are doing on offense. Just look at these year over year stats:
|2 pt FG%||3 pt FG%||Turnover Rate||Points/possession|
|2012-13||37.5 (300)||26.5 (301)||24.8 (252)||.76 (313)|
|2013-14||45.1 (116)||32.0 (151)||16.0 (8)||1.061 (17)|
Oregon has gone from one of the single worst offenses in the country to one of the best, although strength of schedule skepticism is perhaps still justified. Again, other than getting healthy and more experienced, it's hard to say why. It's worth noting that the Ducks are playing significantly faster than they were last year, which is unbelievable to type. Last year Oregon averaged 79.4 possessions/game, and they were the 4th fastest team in the country. So far this year? 96.1. NINETY SIX POSSESSIONS PER GAME?! That's three more possessions/game than any other team in the country, and 12 more than any other major conference team in the country. It's almost unfathomably fast.
I get the sense that Paul Westhead had the training wheels on his system last year, and that he finally feels like he has the depth of experience and talent to finally play it the way he did a few years ago when Oregon had Taylor Lilley pulling the strings.
Of course, Oregon's defense is still pretty awful and they didn't really look like competing against Stanford. Oregon has still been blown out by all of the good teams on their schedule and Cal at home would presumably qualify even with a limited rotation. But the Ducks are just intriguing enough to make you worry a bit. This should be a fun one.