Oregon lost to Michigan on Monday night as I continued to pretend that the ‘random’ program on level 15 of the LifeCycle would suffice for a workout. And while you’re maybe not impressed with my workout regimen, I was impressed with Oregon in the battle of Nike vs. Adidas; the battle of Yellows.
Let’s talk about why.
I thought they played hard. They run eight deep which is impressive in its own right considering, A) Dana Altman loves to churn through bench minutes, and B) Dana Altman has almost no bench this year. Against the Wolverines they played eight guys 17 minutes or more which, for the season, is about their exact averages. Those eight guys, however, played one helluva game. 50/50 balls seemed to be theirs – save, naturally, for the game winner collected by Ricky Doyle with about half a minute remaining – and no matter what punches Caris LaVert (probably my favorite player in the country) threw, the Ducks always responded. They played one helluva game. But they didn’t win.
It’s ok. There’s more.
John Beilein is one of the best coaches going. He’s putting mid-star recruits into the NBA and himself into the latter weekends of the Dance regularly. His teams – certainly these past two season – have been elite. Here’s what they do at an elite level:
2013 Defensive Free Throw Rate: 22.7% (#1 nationally)
2013 Defensive % Shots at Rim: 20.9% (#6 nationally)
2014 Defensive Free Throw Rate: 26.7% (#2 nationally)
2014 Defensive % Shots at Rim: 24% (#9 nationally)
And things have been the same this year, not allowing teams to get to the rim or the free throw line. Further, and I know we’re early, but Michigan also ranked as the top defensive rebounding team in the nation heading into this game.
As noted, Oregon played one helluva game. We can often quantify this by seeing how well they did in not doing what their opponent necessarily wanted them to do. In this case, the Wolverines were going to make a concerted effort to:
Not let Oregon get to the rim
Not let Oregon get to the FT line
Not let Oregon offensive rebound
Let’s see how Oregon faired:
34% of shots at the rim (2015 UM opponent average: 9.4%)
30% FT rate (2015 UM opponent average: 23%)
45% OR% (2015 UM opponent average: 11%)
Oregon made Michigan uncomfortable. It’s hard for me to say that Oregon played their game because I’m still not sure what their game is. Every season in Eugene has been different than the last. It’s important for these Ducks to be finding their identity. All eight of them.
And sometimes you miss shots. Joe Young hit just 2-9 from distance while Elgin Cook and Dillon Brooks didn’t play their best games (12-28 combined). It happens. But the collective effort was there. Michigan managed to get to the free throw line (29 attempts is their third most in two years) and didn’t turn the ball over (just 8 TOs). The Four Factors still play.
One unfortunate note was the loss of Dwayne Benjamin to an ankle roll late in the contest. It didn’t help Oregon’s rebounding efforts (he’s a vacuum, 76th nationally in DR%), but didn’t necessarily cost them the game. It will, however, be an issue when playing VCU and the HAVOC defense today. Depth tends to help against that. Depth the Ducks are now missing.
Nevertheless, last night the Ducks made a good team play differently than they wanted to. The more often you can do that, the more often you stand a chance to win.