Seven wins, one loss. The Oregon Ducks men’s basketball team is off to its best start since the 2007-08 team that made the NCAA Tournament. The Ducks have blown by inferior opponents in blowouts wins, with a surprisingly easy victory over what was thought to be a tougher Vanderbilt squad, 74-48. The Ducks also eked out a victory over No. 21 UNLV team in Las Vegas before coming up short for the season’s only loss against No. 11 Cincinnati.
Despite the early success, the Oregon hoopsters and their coach Dana Altman, are wary of proclaiming a return to form of five or more years ago.
“I thought we would be further along,” Altman said. “I thought by now we would have a better understanding defensively of what we wanted to do. I don’t think I set the standard too high; I am a little disappointed at where we are.”
“I think we have a lot to grow; we aren’t even close to where the team could be,” senior forward E.J. Singler said.
With final exams coming to a close this week, Oregon has a December game schedule that includes five games spaced over 23 days, with two breaks of a week or longer, leaving plenty of time for practice.
“This is my favorite time of the year, with no school and pretty much all basketball,” Singler said. “We are trying to get better with the time we have off and utilize it to our benefits.”
“We have a long way to go,” Altman said. “Fortunately we don’t open up the league until Jan. 6, which is good because we are going to need the full month to get ready.”
The Ducks’ hot start this year has them in conversation of a top-25 ranking for the first time a long while. Oregon currently sits just outside the official AP Top 25 at the No. 29 spot. But again, the team from “deep in the woods” is cautious of a pronounced optimism.
“We don’t really pay attention to that stuff (rankings),” Singler said. “We are just focusing on us and I think if we do that everything will fall into place for us.”
A major positive for Oregon thus far include solid contributions from true freshman guards Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis and new-to-the-program transfers Arsalan Kazemi and Waverly Austin.
“I knew that we were going to be good because right when the new guys came in they were ready to learn and it has showed,” Singler said.
Oregon has been very diverse in scoring this year with five players averaging in double figures and a sixth with nine points per game.
“Any day in any game anyone can come in and score and help us. I think that is a really good trait for our team this year. Knowing that a lot of different people can score, that is hard to defend.”
During this winter break, Oregon will undoubtedly look to improve the defense, as the Ducks are allowing 66 points per game, ranking them No. 154 in the country as opposed to their impressive No. 31 rank with 78.5 PPG scored. The Ducks are also averaging a horrendous 17.2 turnovers per game, placing them No. 307 in the nation, just 40 spots ahead of dead last.