Kostecka: As Oregon men’s basketball struggles in Pac-12 play, was it all just hype?

Oregon guard Damyean Dotson (21) shows his speed and agility as he makes his way to the basket late in the first half. The No. 17 Oregon Ducks play the California Bears at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore. on Jan. 9, 2014. (Michael Shaw/Emerald)

Oregon guard Damyean Dotson (21) shows his speed and agility as he makes his way to the basket late in the first half. The No. 17 Oregon Ducks play the California Bears at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore. on Jan. 9, 2014. (Michael Shaw/Emerald)

Posted by Ryan Kostecka on Monday, Jan. 13 at 5:00 pm.

Offense sells tickets, defense wins championships.

It’s a testament as old as time and if the Ducks are going to prove they’re not just hype, it’s going to begin on the defensive side of the ball.

But since the Ducks started Pac-12 play in week 10, their weak non-conference schedule proved that they weren’t battle-tested and paved the way for losses in two of their first three conference games. Not only have the Ducks not played well in all three games, but they could easily be 0-3 if not for a sensational play by Damyean Dotson that secured Oregon’s win over Utah in overtime.

That being said, the question looming is: “Are the Ducks good or was it all just hype?”

A large reason for Oregon’s struggles has been its porous defense all season long.

Throughout the non-conference portion of the season, the Ducks had given up an average of 74.75 points per game, yet never played anybody ranked in the top 25. In the 12 games, the Ducks had given up 15 points or more to 20 different scorers and 20 points or more to nine different scorers.

When Pac-12 play began and the competition got significantly tougher, the Ducks defense wilted even more, giving up 86.5 points per game and 20 points or more to five scorers in three games.

Now that Oregon is in the heart of Pac-12 play, it’s going to have to figure out a way to shore up its defensive woes. The potential is there for the Ducks on defense. They have the talent and all the necessary parts to be one of the better defensive teams in the conference, definitely not the worst.

It all starts with effort, though.

“We had a couple very good days and that’s why I felt a little better going into this game,” Altman said after Oregon’s 96-83 loss to Cal. “(But) we’ve got to do some soul searching. We’ve got a lot of work to do. Defensively, we’re not very good. There’s no other way to put it.”

There’s a significant lack of effort and communication on the defensive side of the ball. Rarely does Oregon rotate all the way after trapping the ball handler and that leads to easy baskets for the opponent.

The guards take too many gambles trying to go for steals rather than just keeping their man in front of them. Oregon was able to get away with that type of aggressive play last year because they had Tony Woods protecting the rim and Arsalan Kazemi grabbing rebounds. This year, the Ducks don’t have the prototypical rim protector so staying in front of your man and communication are keys to success.

The Ducks still have all the talent necessary on offense to make a deep run in late March but to even get there, it’s going to take a much better defensive effort throughout Pac-12 play.

As a team, more effort on the defensive side will lead to an easier offensive transition and in the end, prove that the Ducks were worth the early-season hype.

Follow Ryan Kostecka on Twitter @Ryan_Kostecka