Win or lose, the Oregon Ducks will be an extremely valuable test for this young, talented Houston Cougar basketball team.
Making big proclamations about a team that has played 3 regular season games is folly. With that caveat, its clear that this is an incredibly talented Cougar team that is still working on putting together a complete 40 minutes of basketball.
In the Ducks they’ll get a well-coached, veteran opponent that has been excellent in all phases of the game and passed their one serious test so far.
That serious test came in the form of the Memphis Tigers, who the Ducks beat 82-74 at the Trailblazers’ arena in Portland. The Ducks held the Tigers to 4-23 from the 3-point line and largely won thanks to dramatically outplaying their young opponents in the games’ first 10 minutes and never giving up that lead.
Oregon’s roster makeup reminds me a lot of the 2018-19 UH team, a ‘front line’ of a few tough veteran guards and a large group of talented underclassmen behind those vets.
Chief among those vets is senior Payton Pritchard, the son of ex-NBA player and current exec Kevin Pritchard. The younger Pritchard is shooting a freakish 71.9% on 2-pointers and leads the Ducks in points (20.3) and assists (5.8) per game. Despite being one of the Ducks’ shortest regulars, Pritchard is also 2nd on the team with 6.3 rebounds/game.
Like a lot of programs, the Ducks have also benefited this year from mid-major grad transfers, specifically: Shakur Juiston (UNLV) and Anthony Mathis (New Mexico).
Mathis was a high school teammate of Pritchard at West Linn High in suburban Portland and led New Mexico in scoring last year. Through 4 games, Mathis is 2nd on the Ducks with 14.3 points/game, while shooting an unbelievable 68.2% on 3-pointers (15-22) and leading the country in true shooting % (85.3). The Coogs are 289th nationally in opponent 3-point FG %, so Mathis will be a good torture test at the perimeter.
Juiston is also 3rd on the Ducks in scoring (10.8) and rebounding (5.5) while starting all 4 games. Junior Chris Duarte, a transfer from the JuCO ranks, is a potential match-up problem at a listed 6’6” and has also started every game to date.
The Ducks’ most consistent low-post presence has been sophomore Francis Okoro whose offensive numbers have been modest but is leading the Ducks in rebounding and is top 20 nationally in Offensive Rebounding %.
I expect we’ll also see a fair amount of freshmen Addison Patterson and Chandler Lawson and sophomore Will Richardson coming off the bench.
The Ducks don’t play at the kind of breakneck pace the Coogs saw from Rice on Tuesday and are current 247th in Adjusted Tempo. And while they’re very good when they actually do attempt 3-pointers, the Ducks are 292nd in 3-pointers as a percentage of all field goals.
The match up of Kelvin Sampson and Ducks head coach Dana Altman should be a good one too. The 2 coaches have nearly 1,300 career wins and 30 NCAA appearances between them.
The Coogs will know a lot more about themselves after this game is finished tonight.