When a team that was streaking only two weeks ago slumps as abruptly as Oregon has, it can sometimes be difficult to figure out what went wrong.
In the Ducks' case, however, it's pretty simple. They aren't stopping anyone.
During its three-game losing streak the past eight days, Oregon has given up an average of 92.7 points per game and has allowed Colorado, Cal and Stanford to each shoot more than 50 percent from the field and to score at least 1.19 points per possession. Committing too many turnovers and surrendering too many offensive rebounds has contributed to the Ducks' defensive woes, but their small, quick perimeter corps has also struggled against some of the talented longer, bigger guards they've faced.
Six-foot-6 Spencer Dinwiddie lit up Oregon for 23 points on only nine shots in Colorado's 1oo-91 victory over the Ducks on Jan. 5. Six-foot-3 freshman Jordan Matthews erupted for 32 points – nearly four times his average – in Cal's 96-83 victory on Thursday night. And 6-foot-2 Chasson Randle and 6-foot-6 Anthony Brown combined for an efficient 47 points on Sunday night in Stanford's 82-80 upset on Sunday afternoon.
Defensive woes aren't a new problem for an Oregon team that has ranked near the bottom of the Pac-12 in points per possession allowed all season. The difference now is that the Ducks are giving up baskets at such an alarming rate that their high-octane, guard-heavy offense can't score quickly enough to keep up the way it was during Oregon's 13-game win streak to start the season.
Oregon doesn't have to be an elite defensive team to win. Heck, with the way the Ducks can score in bunches, even average defense will suffice most nights.
Five of Oregon's next seven games are on the road beginning with a visit to rival Oregon State on Saturday.
If the Ducks can improve defensively, they're fully capable of bouncing back from their 1-3 Pac-12 start and showing that their losing streak was an aberration. If they don't solve some of their defensive issues, however, they could be buried in the standings before the first half of league play is over.