After a couple of relatively easy games to open the 2021 season, the Oregon Ducks finally get to dive into a meaty part of their schedule and show just how good of a team they are.
The Battle 4 Atlantis tournament kicks off on Saturday in the Bahamas, and Oregon has a first-round matchup with the Oklahoma Sooners, who are a surefire tournament team that will present a nice test for the Ducks.
Unfortunately, Oregon will be playing down a few key pieces, with it being confirmed on Friday that star PG Te-Hina Paopao did not make the trip with the team after undergoing a procedure. She is reportedly staying in Eugene over the Thanksgiving break to start on her rehabilitation process and hopes to be back on the floor in time for Pac-12 play to start at the end of December.
Up Next: Oregon Game Plan…
Oregon Ducks Game Plan
Head coach Kelly Graves joked when talking to the media on Friday morning that he is calling guard Maddie Scherr “Maddie-120,” since she will likely have to play 40 minutes per game over the next three games while the team deals with Te-Hina Paopao’s absence.
It’s funny in jest but highlights a potential problem for Oregon. Without one of the top scoring guards in the nation, the Ducks are going to have to rely on Scherr to carry the load, especially since transfer guard Endyia Rogers is out with a broken hand as well.
Fortunately, the Ducks have a deep roster of forwards and centers that can absolutely dominate the paint and make life hard on any team who tries to stand tall against them. Look for Oregon to get the ball inside to Sedona Prince, Phillipina Kyei, and Kylee Watson early and often against the Sooners.
Up Next: Oklahoma Game Plan…
Oklahoma Game Plan
The Sooners continue to deal with the loss of Gabby Gregory, who has yet to make her season debut as she deals with health issues. This is a big loss for Oklahoma, as Gregory has averaged 16.6 points per game for the team.
First-year coach Jennie Baranczyk has her team off to a solid start, though the Sooners are suffering from the same problem as the Ducks early in the year — no quality opponents to tell you how good they really are. Wins over South Dakota, Arkansas State, and Centra Arkansas have Oklahoma riding high, but a game against the Ducks could potentially bring them back to earth.
Without Gregory in the lineup, the Sooners will likely rely on Madi Williams, Ana Llanusa, and Taylor Robertson to do much of their scoring. Oklahoma is a team that can score with the best of them, but their defense may struggle against an Oregon team that is not shy to wear out a scoreboard.
Up Next: Key Players to Watch…
Key Players to Watch
As we mentioned earlier, the focus for the Ducks will be how far Maddie Scherr can carry them in this tournament. The duo of Te-Hina Paopao and Endyia Rogers is lethal in the backcourt, but Oregon will have to make due without them and lean on Sherr to lead the way and orchestrate the offense. Luckily, she is an extremely talented player who has shown early on this season that she is capable of doing just that. In two games this year, she is averaging 9 points, 5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists.
Madi Williams is averaging 17 points per game this season for the Sooners, and shooting at an efficient 56.4% clip. The Ducks have the size to slow her down in the paint, but if she gets cooking from outside or in the mid-range, it might be tough for Oregon’s guards to slow her down.
Up Next: Score Prediction
While they are playing without one of their best players, and there’s a chance that forward Nyara Sabally is unable to go for this one too, the Ducks simply have enough talent to not let that be a major factor. It will likely be a closer game than we’re used to seeing this season, but I still think that Kelly Graves will have his team ready to move on in this tournament.
Final Score Prediction
Oregon 75, Oklahoma 69