Although the regular season ended in rather disappointing fashion, the LSU Tigers are still playing for at least one more game tonight as they take on the Oregon Ducks in Eugene. I was in contact with David over at Addicted to Quack with a Q&A exchange, and you can check out my answers to his questions over there. Here's what David had to say about the Oregon basketball program.
ATVS: It's been a while since I've seen an Oregon basketball game. I remember only a few years ago when they had Aaron Brooks and had a good year, but after that it seems like they disappeared. What happened?
Oregon has had a few good seasons, with two Elite Eight runs in the past decade. The problem was that they haven't been able to sustain that success. Former coach Ernie Kent recruited some fabulous talent that won big when they were seniors, but there were often 3-4 years of nothing between good teams. Oregon backed into the tourney in '08, the year after the tournament, then went onto 10th and 9th place finishes in the Pac-12 the next two seasons (including a depressing 2-16 league mark), leading to Kent's firing. It was a combination of recruiting too many guys that didn't work out, and many years of unbalanced recruiting (8 seniors in one class unbalanced) finally catching up with Oregon.
Former Creighton coach Dana Altman came in prior to last season, and somehow won 20 games and the CBI with a gutted roster that by all rights should have finished last in even many minor conferences. After upgrading the talent with several transfers, he's built on that with another 20-win season and the NIT berth this year. The program is on the right track. Now Altman needs to prove he can get quality high school talent and build some continuity for the long haul.
ATVS: What do you think the atmosphere at the game will be like? Will it have high attendance?
I think it will be fairly well attended, but by no means a sellout. The student section will be rocking, but UO is trying to sell lower bowl tickets for $31, and most of the alumni live in the Portland area, a two hour drive away, which is tough on a weeknight on short notice at $31 bucks a seat. My estimate would be somewhere in the 7,000-8,000 people range. However, given that this is Oregon's best season in about four years, I'd expect the crowd to be pretty fired up, especially the student section.
ATVS: What kind of defensive style does Dana Altman use, and what is his goal defensively?
Altman will run a large variety of presses and zones. He'll usually press most of the game, switching from a 2-2-1, to a 1-2-2, to a half court trap, and back again. He'll move from a 2-3 zone, to a matchup zone, and even throw in a bit of man to man. The defense doesn't really cause a lot of turnovers, but it gets the pace up to the tempo that Oregon wants to play at, and makes the offense work to get open shots.
ATVS: Oregon seems to have a pretty significant size advantage. How might this impact the game?
Oregon has some big dudes-Tony Woods is 6'11", Tyrone Nared is 6'8", as is Jeremy Jacob. However, of the guys in the rotation, those three are probably the least likely offensive options. The big guy who is most likely to cause LSU problems is Olu Ashaolu, the transfer from Louisiana Tech. Ashaolu has been wildly inconsistent, but has had games where he has absolutlely dominated with several 20 point games, and more highlight reel dunks than any Oregon player since former NBA slam dunk champion Freddie Jones. But for the most part, the Oregon offense is really perimeter oriented.
Where the height really comes into play is on defense. Tony Woods and, to a lesser extent, Tyrone Nared, swallow up shots that in previous years would have been uncontested layins.
ATVS: Is there an under the radar player we should know about?
The "Big Three" for Oregon, Devoe Joseph, EJ Singler, and Garrett Sim, all average double digits and are among the most prolific shooters in the Pac-12, so I'm not sure they qualify as under the radar. Besides Ashaolu, the other player to know is Carlos Emory, a JUCO transfer who really struggled early on, but has been averaging double digits since early February with a nifty inside-outside game.
ATVS: Any predictions for the game?
From the numbers I'm seeing from LSU's defense, I think they'll stay in the game. That said, Oregon put on by far its worst shooting performance of the season in the Pac-12 Tournament against Colorado, when neither Sim, Singler, nor Joseph could buy a bucket. That loss ultimately cost them a realistic shot at a berth to the dance. So many times, we've seen close home games that Oregon really puts away in the last five minutes because their guards all shoot 87% or better from the line. If I had to guess, I'd probably say that's how this one finishes.
What does this all mean: I'm not ashamed to admit that I haven't actually seen Oregon play this year. With the incredibly bad showing by the Pac 12 as a whole, I actually haven't seen hardly any Pac 12 teams play. That said, Oregon's record and season wasn't all that bad. They really didn't have the embarrassing losses that the rest of the league had, they just weren't ever able to capitalize against the NCAA teams on their schedule.
Oregon will probably want to keep this as an uptempo game, and that's really the place where the game will be won or lost by LSU. If the Tigers are able to handle the pressure that will surely be coming and make good decisions, they will find themselves with a chance to win it at the end. If they allow the pressure to frustrate them, expect LSU to be officially done tonight.
Vegas is giving LSU 7.5 points tonight, with an O/U of 136. It's not all that telling to me, other than that it will be an average game with Oregon being a little bit better. As for how I think it will go, I'm not all that high on LSU's chances. Oregon is coming of a heartbreaking Pac 12 championship loss to Colorado, and I think they will have plenty more motivation tonight to pick up the win. I expect LSU to put up a fight, but I think they will trail for a good portion of the game, and like David said, Oregon's free throw shooting will end it.
Gametime is set for 8:30 CT and the game can be seen on ESPN or ESPN3.