One thing is definite after PK80: Oregon has a long way to go
PORTLAND, Ore. — There are still games to be played in the PK80 Invitational, but Oregon’s weekend is already over. An early finish is usually what happens when you lose the opening game of a tournament.
The Ducks finished their PK80 run with a disappointing 90-80 loss against Oklahoma on Sunday to cap what has been an equally disappointing weekend. They’ll head into the final seven games of their nonconference schedule with a 5-2 record. Oregon is still searching for answers in what’s been a wildly inconsistent season so far. PK80 only raised more questions.
Head coach Dana Altman learned something, though.
“We need a massive amount of work,” Altman said. “I hope our guys learned that. … Tremendous amount of things to work on.”
The Ducks didn’t play well in any of their three PK80 games. They had promising stretches, but those sputtered out more often than not. You could chalk their performances up to the heightened competition, as Oregon’s previous four opponents, all Oregon wins, have a combined record of 4-20.
Or — and this is the option I’m going with — Oregon just isn’t good. At least, not currently.
The Ducks lack a true, big man, which forces them to rely on stretch forwards who prefer hanging around the perimeter compared to crashing the boards or protecting the paint. And when their threes aren’t falling, their offense becomes stagnant and forces them into tough shots.
The issues are correctable, Altman says, but the road to fixing them won’t be easy.
“All the things we need to do are the tough things,” he said. “We have a lot of volunteers to shoot it and to pass it, but we don’t have any volunteers to do the tough things right now.”
Oregon had those guys the last three years. Dillon Brooks, Jordan Bell, Casey Benson, Chris Boucher, Dylan Ennis, you name it: all those guys stepped up to do the nitty-gritty work when Oregon needed. The question now becomes who on this year’s Oregon squad will step into the role.
The biggest hurdle with finding that answer lies in Oregon’s inexperience, especially in terms of playing together. This team has only practiced together for the last five months, and while they say they’re all comfortable with each other, the on-court product indicates otherwise.
Still, Oregon has the pieces to be a talented team, and they displayed flashes of brilliance against inferior teams. But the problems arise when Oregon isn’t playing cupcakes like 0-6 Alabama State and Coppin State. PK80 put Oregon to the test with legit competition, and the Ducks faltered.
“They just haven’t dealt with any adversity,” Altman said. “So, it’s going to take some time. Young guys — six freshmen out there — they’re struggling with it.”
Oregon did show resilience at times this weekend. Its overtime win against DePaul showed that this team, while young, can push through if it puts its mind to it. It also rallied back against Oklahoma, a far superior foe than DePaul, but couldn’t stop Sooners’ freshman guard Trae Young down the stretch.
At the end of the day, resilience in a loss is just a moral victory, and those won’t make Oregon a legit contender for anything this year.
The season is still in its early stages and Oregon has time to remedy its issues. The next seven games will serve as an indicator of how good this team really is.
“I think we’re a lot better than this,” Altman said, “but I think we’re going to have to work awfully hard to change things around.”
Follow Gus Morris on Twitter @JustGusMorris
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