It has been a brutal season for Oregon women’s basketball.
The Ducks (4-22 overall, 2-12 Pac-12) are currently in the middle of a six-game losing streak, losing each game by an average of 22.5 points. With just five games left — and three of those against ranked opponents — Oregon fans are hoping for any kind of highlight before the season ends.
In this golden year of Oregon sports, the mounting losses beg the question: Is head coach Paul Westhead accountable?
Yes, by Matt Walks — Simply put, Oregon is unlikely to fire Westhead. Under the 70-year-old coach’s contract, the University would be required to pay whatever remains on his $3.2 million price tag if it makes the decision to terminate Westhead before March 2014.
But this hasn’t simply been a poor season — it’s going to be the worst in the history of the program. That was precisely the negative distinction that got previous coach Bev Smith canned after a 9-21 campaign in 2008.
At some point you have to overlook the injuries and point to the bench.
“We need more leadership,” freshman Jillian Alleyne said following Friday’s loss to Washington. Alleyne has been a rare bright spot for the team this season, and her 12.3 rebounds per game are seventh-best in the country, but that may have something to do with the Ducks’ abysmal 34 percent shooting from the field, which ranks 325th in the nation.
No, by Aubrey Wieber — The list of problems with Oregon’s women’s basketball team is long. They turn the ball over 21 times per game but only average 11 assists. They shoot 34 percent. They have attempted 579 three pointers, a shot they only make 27 percent of the time.
At times this can be confusing for Duck fans. Westhead is supposedly an offensive guru, so why is his team so incompetent on that side of the ball?
The most obvious answer is the team has been swallowed up by injuries. Their starting point guard and projected leading scorer are both out for the season, and nearly every other player has spent some part of the season unavailable. During the worst stretch of the season the Ducks only had seven scholarship players able to suit up.
This has forced players out of their natural positi0ns, as well as giving inexperienced players an unfair responsibility to be productive on the court. The outcome has been catastrophic.
Placing all the blame on Westhead seems easy. He has openly said many times he will never discourage his shooters, even when they take head-scratchingly deep three pointers early in the shot clock. His quick system has led to turnovers rather than buckets, and over a relatively large sample size — nearly an entire season — the Ducks have failed to learn from their mistakes.
That said, Westhead simply doesn’t have much to work with. He doesn’t have a pure point guard, which is crucial to his style of play. He lacks a go-to scorer which kills the Ducks in the rare moments they find themselves in crunch time.
He certainly hasn’t been brilliant from the bench, but with all the instability surrounding the program throughout the season, a coach as accomplished as Westhead is deserves a pass on a horrific season. However, if he wants to re-sign with Oregon after next season, the final year on his current contract, he better find a way to win games in the 2013-14 season.