Oregon Ducks

Oregon Ducks won't rule the basketball world without its King

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USA Today

Oregon Ducks won't rule the basketball world without its King

The Oregon men's basketball season sits in a precarious situation. In a sport where not one player that's good enough to make millions in the NBA wants to play for free in college, the Ducks, like other programs, are continually fighting to build a national title contender before their best players move on to get paid. 

Oregon's men's basketball season ended sooner than it had hoped but also much later than anyone could have expected once the Pac-12 Conference season began without Bol Bol, lost for the season with a foot injury. The team's run to the Pac-12 tournament championship and the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, where last Thursday it fell to No. 1-seed Virginia, was accomplished with a roster that consisted of just two seniors (Paul White and Ehab Amin) and enough talented underclassmen to at least contemplate a deeper run next season. 

However, that likely won't be possible without the return of freshman Louis King, who following the team's loss to Virginia he is undecided about his future. King is the key to it all. With him, the Ducks would have the look of a Final Four contender. With out him, it's difficult to believe that the Ducks will make another strong run. 

First off, let's just get this question out of the way: Junior point guard Payton Pritchard and sophomore forward Kenny Wooten have no business leaving for the NBA at this time. Neither is listed as a potential draft pick on any mock draft out there (at least that I could find). Sure, they should test the waters, but both would be better off returning next season. If both were to leave, Oregon would have no chance of doing much of anything next season. 

Now let's return to a world where both Pritchard and Wooten do return. In this world, a team led by this duo would be quite formidable. Plus, they would be surrounded by a ton of budding talent. Guard Victor Bailey Jr., who will become a junior, is going to bust out next season. The former four-star recruit shot .39 percent from three-point range last season and should only improve his all-around game.

The 2018 recruiting class was led by five-star gems, King and Bol Bol, who will be a first-round pick in June, but also featured three four-star recruits. Guard Will Richardson, forward Miles Norris and center Francis Okoro certainly flashed great potential this season. 

Then Oregon has its incoming class led by five-star forward C.J. Walker, and four-star recruits; guard Christopher Duarte, forward Chandler Lawson and center Isaac Johnson.  

On paper, that's at least six recent four-star recruits, a five-star talent in Walker, Payton and Wooten hit the hardwood with next season. Not bad. But it's not good enough to make a Final Four run given the extreme youth. 

What that group needs is King to get them over the top. King, after Bol Bol went down with a foot injury, was easily UO's most talented player on the court. He initially struggled after missing seven games with a torn meniscus. He shot 21 of 64 (32.8 percent) over his first seven games before finding his grove. He finished at 43.8 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from three while ranking second on the team in scoring (13.5), only behind Bol Bol (21.1) and second in rebounds (5.5), also behind his fallen teammate (9.6).

King would be the team's centerpiece. The star other teams fear. The player that could make everyone around him better by his sheer presence, especially the incoming freshmen. He is a fluid, graceful, 6-foot-9 athlete capable of getting his own shot, penetrating and dropping threes in the faces of defenders. What's not to love?

King would be this team's Dillon Brooks, who led the Ducks to the 2017 Final Four. 

Without King, the Ducks would still be good, and who knows, maybe one of the returning sophomores or incoming freshmen blows up and becomes that dawg.

That's a big "if." King is a sure thing.

Imagine, if you will, this season's Ducks team with Troy Brown as the centerpiece. 

Brown entered the NBA after his freshman season and went to the Washington Wizards at No. 16.  Had he remained at Oregon, he could have helped the Ducks maybe win the Pac-12 regular season even without Bol Bol. 

The reality is that most Final Four teams are led by either future NBA players with some seasoning, and/or battle-tested upperclassmen that play the game at such a mentally high level that younger, more talented teams can't compete. 

Look at Duke. It features two players in Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett that could go one-two in this year's NBA Draft yet that team didn't go as far as the Ducks did in 2017 with not one first-round pick. The Blue Devils, before losing to Michigan State in the Elite Eight, barely got by Central Florida (77-76) and Virginia Tech (75-73). 

What the Ducks did have in 2017 were three future second-round picks in Brooks, Jordan Bell and Tyler Dorsey, that had been around a couple of years and were running with a senior in Chris Boucher that is now with the Atlanta Hawks after going undrafted following a knee injury. That combination of talent and experience led the Ducks to the Final Four. 

King, as an experience sophomore with NBA potential, would be deadly, much like Brooks two years ago as a junior. Brown would have been the same but he left early. The comparison of King to Brown in terms of potential impact as sophomores is real but the comparison between the two as NBA prospects is murky.

Brown pretty much had to leave. He was almost a lottery pick and is making millions. King, on the other hand, is not considered to be a sure-fire NBA Draft pick. In fact, NBADraft.net does not list King in its two-round mock draft and neither does HoopsHype.com

That all could change if King were to workout well at the NBA combine, and online mock drafts don't necessarily reflect what NFL scouts are thinking. But as of now, King doesn't appear to be a lock to get drafted. 

For Oregon's sake, it should hope that King decides to return and attempt to play his way into becoming a potential first-round pick in 2020, rather than chase the dream too soon and end up toiling in the G League. With Dana Altman coaching, the team buying into playing elite defense, a glut of young talent and the likely return of Pritchard and Wooten, Mr. King could be set up for a glorious sophomore season. 

Without him, Oregon will still be good next season. There is no denying that. But the Ducks won't have a legitimate chance of reaching the Final Four without the return of its King. 

Check out the Ducks retro green uniforms for Part II of the Civil War

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GoDucks

Check out the Ducks retro green uniforms for Part II of the Civil War

The No. 4 Oregon Ducks (16-2, 6-1 Pac-12) defeated their rival No. 7 Oregon State (16-3, 4-3 Pac-12) 76-64 in front of a soldout crowd of 12,362 at Matthew Knight Arena Friday night to take Round 1 of the Civil War series. 

Now, for Round 2, Oregon is going to be rocking some fresh threads.

The new green alternate uniforms rock the vintage university logo from 1994-1998 on the shorts.

The women's team wore the white retro jerseys earlier in the month.

Now, it's time to break out the green!

And people on social media are ready to shell out some coin for these new uniforms. 

Round 2 of the Civil War tips off at 1pm on Sunday.

Justin Herbert named MVP of the Senior Bowl

Justin Herbert named MVP of the Senior Bowl

After impressing all week for NFL coaches at the practices ahead of the Senior Bowl, Justin Herbert capped it off with a great showing in the game itself.

So good he was named the MVP of the event.

Herbert played only the first quarter completing 9-of-13 balls for 83 yards and a touchdown pass.

One of his incompletions wasn't even his fault.

He spoke after winning the award on what he wanted to show the NFL while in Mobile, Alabama.

I wanted to be myself. I wanted to come compete and I wanted to have fun. This is an opportunity I've said so many times that not a lot of people get to go through. I love the game of football and I love being here, it's been a blast.

The quarterback from Eugene, OR showed NFL coaches why he's such a coveted prospect ahead of the NFL Draft that will almost assuredly be selected in the first ten picks. His prototypical quarterback 6-foot-6 frame intrigues scouts, but his pinpoint accuracy and athleticism astounds them.

[RELATED: Who won the Senior Bowl? Justin Herbert]

He also used the week to quiet concerns from scouts that he's not a great leader, but they could have just done that by talking to anyone in the Oregon program, including tight end Spencer Webb.

The play from this week impressed many, including Matt Miller of Bleacher Report.

Herbert's former offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach of three seasons was not surprised to see Herbert excelling after college. 

 

Who won the Senior Bowl? Justin Herbert...

Who won the Senior Bowl? Justin Herbert...

After finishing up his senior season as Pac-12 Champion and Rose Bowl MVP, it was time for Justin Herbert to prepare for the next step.

So far, he has been passing with flying colors.

As the Oregon QB goes through the draft process, the expected first-round selection will be scrutinized from every aspect. He is, afterall, playing the most important position on the field, which also happens to be the hardest position to scout. 

At the Reese's Senior Bowl, Herbert got the draft process off to an amazing start.

All week at practice, Herbet has impressed everyone watching; including Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan.

He’s very talented physically. He’s got prototypical size and athletic ability. He has a really, really strong arm. On top of that, he’s extremely intelligent and he’s very conscientious. He gathers information, he can process it and he can call it. He went under center for the first time, probably, in his career and he answered that bell with flying colors. Every day I continue to be impressed with the things we ask him to do and he answers really well.

The Bengals do own the first overall selection in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft.

However, he wasn't the only one impressed by Herbert in practice. The former Oregon Duck was named the MVP of Senior Bowl practices.

But how did he play in the game? 

Quite well actually.

Herbert finished the first quarter with 83 yards on 9-of-13 passing and a touchdown.

 

It wasn't all great though. The Eugene native probably had flashbacks to his junior season with this drop. 

After his performance, anyone watching came away impressed by how Herbert looked. 

Duck alumn Geoff Schwartz has been on the Justin Herbert train for years and feels vindicated.

Next up, Justin Herbert will attend the NFL Combine that'll take place between February 23rd and March 2nd. It's unclear if he'll choose to throw or just have his measurables taken and take part in some drills. 

With the celebration over, the Ducks are back in the weight room

With the celebration over, the Ducks are back in the weight room

Not rest for the weary!

The defending Pac-12 and Rose Bowl Champions are already preparing to defend their crown and build off an impressive season.

Strength and conditioning coordinator Aaron Feld already has the Ducks in the weight room for Oregon's offseason training program ahead of the 2020 season. Feld has said in the past that the offseason is his season.

The players themselves are taking these workouts seriously, giving their all.

However, the program definitely works. In Feld's first season following his offseason training program, the Ducks were clearly more physically dominant. For three quarters they blew Stanford off the line and ran a dive play on third-and-five to walk off against Washington. 

Last season, they won the Pac-12 conference rushing for 239 yards against the nation's top rushing defense heading into the game. Feld uses the hashtag #TAKETHEPAC and the Ducks did just that this season. One game later, they beat a Wisconsin team known for their physicality.

Once coach Feld came from Georgia to Eugene, he began using the #FLEXFRIDAY hashtag to let the players show off their gains on social media. 

Here are some from this week's #FLEXFRIDAY.

And here are some of my favorites from the last two seasons.

Keep flexin'!

Sabrina Ionescu should be carrying Ruthy Hebard’s books to class

Sabrina Ionescu should be carrying Ruthy Hebard’s books to class

“You should be carrying Ruthy’s books to class.”

Those were the exact words head coach Kelly Graves leaned over and said to Sabrina Ionescu after the No. 4 Oregon Ducks (16-2, 6-1 Pac-12) took round one of the Civil War weekend series with No. 7 Oregon State (16-3, 4-3 Pac-12) 76-64 in a sold out Matthew Knight Arena.

On a night where Ionescu broke yet another record, this time becoming the Pac-12 leader in assists, 

Who other could that last assist have gone to other than Ruthy Hebard?

Fitting.

The two that have played together for four years, have developed this undeniable, nearly un-guardable chemistry, have dominated the Pac-12 conference since their time at Oregon. It was this assist and bucket that Ionescu broke the record.

It’s awesome. I mean, it’s not really as much me as it is my teammates. The teammates that I’ve had in the past have got in the right position and have put me in the right position to help them and help our team win. I mean half of those [assists] are to Ruthy, half are to Satou [Sabally], Erin [Boley], so they should be getting the credit really not me. — Sabrina Ionescu

If “hustle points” showed up on the stat sheet, Hebard would have recorded a thousand. Diving after loose balls, sprinting after long rebounds, getting on the floor, those are the types of plays that help you win games. And against rival Oregon State, they were crucial.

She finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and three steals.

Hebard was defensively assigned to Oregon State freshman Taylor Jones. The 6-foot-4 forward made life difficult in the paint for the Ducks and for Hebard. Jones recorded 21 points and two blocks in the game, but was limited to only three rebounds.

I think I can do better, but I’m definitely excited for Sunday to do a little better. Hopefully make a few more rebounds, a few more shots. — Ruthy Hebard

A rematch on Sunday between these two? Yes, please.

I take them all seriously but I’m definitely excited to go back up there again and play. I’m really glad we got this first win, so the second win on Sunday is going to be really fun to do again. — Ruthy Hebard

Round two between Oregon and Oregon State will tip-off in less that 48 hours in front of a sold out Gill Coliseum on Sunday at 1 p.m. (PT).

Instant Analysis: Ducks break open the floodgates against the Beavers

Instant Analysis: Ducks break open the floodgates against the Beavers

When the Ducks are on fire, there's nothing the opposing team can do to stop them, as the Beavers found out when their dam came crashing down in the first leg of the Civil War weekend.

The No. 4 Oregon Ducks (16-2, 6-1 Pac-12) defeated their rival No. 7 Oregon State (16-3, 4-3 Pac-12) 76-64 in front of a soldout crowd of 12,362 at Matthew Knight Arena. 

The Beavers got off to a quick start taking a 10-2 lead after a Destiny Slocum three-pointer with 6:25 remaining in the first period. 

However, then the Ducks came roaring back eventually taking an 18-16 lead off a jump shot from guard Sabrina Ionescu. Their offense didn't stop there, however, as the Ducks' efficient offense continued all night en route to a huge conference victory for Oregon. 

A late rally by Oregon State got them within striking distance but it was too little, too late. 

Here are three takeaways from the contest.

1. Sabrina is the GOAT

It took just seven seconds for the all-time leading scorer in program history to break another record (which may be a record in of itself), when Sabrina became the all-time leader in assists in Pac-12 conference history with 939. She had tied Gary Payton from Oregon State in the Ducks' previous game against California. 

She wasn't done yet, of course. She took command of the game after the Ducks got into an early deficit, including capping off the first quarter with a buzzer-beating three-pointer that everyone knew was going in.

For good measure, she beat the third-quarter buzzer too.

She finished the game with 23 points, four rebounds and nine assists which using the Russell Westbrook way-of-thinking is a "bad" game since she didn't get a triple-double. 

However, as the best player in all of college basketball, it's Sabrina's world and we're just living in it. 

2. The Ducks are an offensive onslaught waiting to happen

Team USA felt it. Stanford felt it. Now Oregon State has felt it.

When the Ducks are clicking on offense no one in the nation can stop them.

Not only do they have three expected future-first-round picks in the upcoming WNBA Draft (Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard, and Satou Sabally) but their supporting players are full of 40-percent three-point shooters. If a defense can somehow force someone other than the Ducks' Big Three to beat them, then Erin Boley, Taylor Chavez, or Jaz Shelley will just bomb away from behind the arc. Their opponents can pick their poison but each choice has the same result if the Ducks are rolling. 

3. The Beavers need to play inside-out to beat the Ducks 

Despite an overall poor first half, Oregon State freshman Taylor Jones showed why she's one of the highest-rated recruits to ever come to Corvallis. Her 17 first-half points led the game up until that point and were the lone bright spot for the Beavers.

However, it provided a blueprint for the rematch on Sunday in Corvallis; the Beavers need to play through the 6-foot-4 Taylor Jones on the block and force the Ducks to double team her, so their shooters can get off clean looks once the ball is worked around. If that double team never comes from Graves' squad then the Beavers should be happy getting efficient looks late in the clock each possession to slow the game down which will limit the Ducks' offensive possessions and their opportunities to score. 

Sabrina Ionescu becomes Pac-12 conference all-time leader in assists

Sabrina Ionescu becomes Pac-12 conference all-time leader in assists

Another game, another Sabrina Ionescu moment where she etches her name into basketball history.

One week after becoming Oregon’s all-time leader in points, earning Pac-12, ESPNW and U.S. Basketball Writers Association Player of the Week honors, Ionescu adds another accomplishment to her already stacked resume. 

With her first assist (939 total) in tonight’s game vs. Oregon State, Ionescu has become the Pac-12 conference’s leader in assists.

The record came early in the contest when Ionescu assisted a Ruthy Hebard bucket just seven seconds into the game.

Ionescu has the opportunity to become the first player in NCAA history to record 2,000+ points, 1,000+ assists and 1,000+ rebounds in her collegiate career. 

The 5-foot-11 senior is averaging 17.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.6 assists per game this season. To put that in perspective, Ionescu is averaging a near triple-double in this troubling Pac-12 conference with numerous teams in the AP Poll Top-25. She dropped a career-high 37 points on No. 3 Stanford and 30 points on Team USA back in November.

Her talents have intrigued the stars of the NBA: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant as well as Ja Morant. 

Tickets for Women's Civil War surge to $1k on secondary market

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IMAGN

Tickets for Women's Civil War surge to $1k on secondary market

Tonight marks part one in a two-part Civil War series between the No. 4 Oregon Ducks (15-2, 5-1 Pac-12) and No. 7 Oregon State Beavers (16-2, 4-2 Pac-12). The first of a two-game series between the Ducks and Beavers tips off tonight at 7 p.m. (PT) at Matthew Knight Arena. Part two will tip off 40 hours later and 45 minutes North in Corvallis at Gill Coliseum at 1 p.m. (PT). 

Two games separated by less than 48 hours. Two teams separated by 45 minutes of one another. Both teams ranked inside the Top-10. A Civil War weekend series that will have major implications in national rankings, Pac-12 conference standings as well as future NCAA tourney seeding. This should be a good one.

If you're looking for a ticket, you'll have to hit the secondary market. Both teams announced well ahead of this weekend's slate of games that their arenas are SOLD OUT!

Tickets for Friday night's contest at Matthew Knight Arena are going for as much as $461 apiece. But, that price point is a bit of an outlier.

Chances are, the person selling those tickets has little to no expectation that they'll go for that much. Rather, that's the price they'd be willing to stay home for. 

And then, there's this...

Not to say these games aren't big, but the inflated price shouldn't scare people into thinking obtaining a ticket at a reasonable price is an impossibility. No one expects those tickets to go for that price!

For perspective: 

Of course, tickets on the secondary market come with price inflation and fees. But, if you're looking to go to either game, you can still get in the door at a reasonable price. 

Nevertheless, these games should be really exciting to watch!

Civil War Preview Part I: Friday night's showdown at Matthew Knight Arena

Civil War Preview Part I: Friday night's showdown at Matthew Knight Arena

Tonight marks part one in a two-part Civil War series between the No. 4 Oregon Ducks (15-2, 5-1 Pac-12) and No. 7 Oregon State Beavers (16-2, 4-2 Pac-12). The first of a two-game series between the Ducks and Beavers tips off tonight at 7 p.m. (PT) at Matthew Knight Arena. Part two will tip off 40 hours later and 45 minutes North in Corvallis at Gill Coliseum at 1 p.m. (PT). 

Two games separated by less than 48 hours. Two teams separated by 45 minutes of one another. Both teams ranked inside the Top-10. A Civil War weekend series that will have major implications in national rankings, Pac-12 conference standings as well as future NCAA tourney seeding. This should be a good one.

Below you’ll find a list of Civil War historical facts, how each team has earned its ranking as well as specific matchups to watch this weekend.

FAST FACTS

- Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck is 15-3 all-time against the Ducks.

- Last year, the Civil War series was split with each team winning on their respected home court.

- Sabrina Ionescu is one assist away from becoming the Pac-12 leader in assists. 

- Mikayla Pivec leads the Pac-12 conference in rebounds per game (9.6).

- The Beavers are averaging 5.4 blocks per game.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

POINTS PER GAME:

Oregon - 87.5

Oregon State - 71.4

ASSISTS PER GAME

Oregon - 21.5

Oregon State - 18.3

REBOUNDS PER GAME

Oregon - 11.3

Oregon State - 13.4

OPPOSING POINTS PER GAME

Oregon - 56.5

Oregon State - 53.4

OREGON

It started with an empathetic win over Team USA. You knew Oregon was going to be good coming into this season, but a win over the best professionals in women’s basketball? That’s pretty impressive. The Ducks went 10-1 in non-conference play and their only loss came to top-10 opponent Louisville on neutral grounds.

Oregon out-scored its opponents 192-110 this past weekend including a 32-point win over the No. 3 Stanford and then a 50-point win over Cal. 

OREGON STATE

Started off this season with a perfect 15-0 record, the best start ever in program history. These past few weeks, the Beavers have been tested and have now lost two conference games: an eight-point loss at Arizona State and a three-point loss to then to top-10 ranked Stanford. 

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Sabrina Ionescu and Minyon Moore vs. Destiny Slocum and Mikayla Pivec

This guard matchup will feature four of the top guards in the nation. The Ducks love to push the pace with Moore and Ionescu. These two have played once before for the Cal Stars, an AAU team in California. Moore and Pivec have similar styles of play in regards to pushing the pace and not being afraid of contact. One key that Oregon must do when guarding Pivec is limit her rebounds. Pivec currently leads the Pac-12 conference in rebounds and she does it from the guard spot. Ionescu and Slocum are also similar in terms of knowing how to score, choosing your shots wisely and the ability to take over games.

Ruthy Hebard and Erin Boley vs. Taylor Jones and Kennedy Brown

How this forward play turns out may decide how the rest of the game plays out. The Beavers have two outstanding freshmen forwards in Jones (6-foot-4) and Brown (6-foot-2) that will be a problem for the rest of the Pac-12 for the foreseeable future. Both are a tough matchup in terms of rebounding while Brown also has the capability of hitting the outside shot. Senior Ruthy Hebard brings her own dynamic play down low and holds the third best field-goal percentage in the nation (68.5). 

GAME INFORMATION

WHO: No. 4 Oregon vs. No. 7 Oregon State

WHEN: Friday night, 7 p.m. (PT)

WHERE: Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR

TV: Pac-12 Networks

RADIO: Oregon Sports Network