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Oregon Ducks (6-5, 0-2) vs. No. 1 Baylor Bears (9-0, 0-0)
Date: Saturday, Dec. 18
Game Time: 7 p.m. PST
Venue: Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR
The Oregon Ducks have the pleasure of hosting the defending national champions, and current No. 1 ranked team in the country, on Saturday evening at Matthew Knight Arena when the Baylor Bears come to town.
Baylor defeated Gonzaga to win their first ever title last year under coach Scott Drew, and they are back in the title hunt despite losing Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler, and MaCio Teague to the professional ranks.
The Ducks began the season as a top-15 ranked team in the country, but they have sputtered to a 6-5 record, including 0-2 in conference play after losing in overtime to Arizona State and at Stanford.
This is far from an easy task for coach Dana Altman and the Ducks, but if they are to pull off an upset they have to have a strong game plan going in…
Oregon Game Plan
Oregon’s plan for this game should be relatively simple: pound the ball in the paint.
N’Faly Dante is coming off perhaps the best game of his career on Wednesday against the Portland Pilots, dropping 20 points and nine rebounds on 9/11 shooting.
Baylor’s guard play is excellent again, despite sending three players to the NBA, but they do not have any established rim protectors under the rim.
Their tallest rotation player is the 6’10 Flo Thamba, who is averaging under five points and five rebounds in just 18 minutes per game.
The Bears do play physical, and they won’t just allow Dante and freshman Franck Kepnang to establish position and go to work down low, but Oregon has the depth in the frontcourt to continually pound the ball and force Baylor to guard them in the post.
Now, what will Baylor try to do to secure their 10th win of the season?
Baylor Game Plan
Baylor is really, really physical on the defensive end of the floor, particularly out on the perimeter.
Despite not having top tier rim protection, the Bears really harass opposing ball-handlers, making them uncomfortable and disrupting their offensive flow.
Look for Baylor to put pressure on Will Richardson, Joe Young, and De’Vion Harmon basically all game long, and Oregon will need to find ways to muscle through the pressure and avoid turning the ball over if they want to pull off the win here.
Here are the key players to watch for each squad:
Key Players to Watch
If N’Faly Dante approaches 20 points in this one like he did against Portland, Oregon’s chances of pulling off the upset go up considerably.
Certainly nice games from Richardson, Young, and Harmon would be instrumental – you need everyone playing well to beat the top team in the country – but an efficient performance from Dante on both ends of the floor would make the biggest impact on this game’s outcome.
The Bears are led in scoring by guards L.J. Cryer and Kendall Brown, but the key player for them on Saturday is going to be 6’8 forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua. Tchatchoua is averaging 8.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game.
He’ll likely be in charge of trying to stop Oregon’s bigs – Dante, Kepnang, and Johnson – plus he’ll need to have a good game offensively to help put some pressure on Oregon’s frontcourt depth.
Final Score Prediction and Betting Odds:
Final Score Prediction and Betting Odds
The Ducks have shown flashes of being the top-15 team they were billed early in the year, which is why the line in this game is fairly close, but if they play like they did against BYU or Arizona State this one will be over early.
Baylor meanwhile is coming off holding Villanova to just 36 points and blowing the doors off Michigan State, so they are looking for another commanding, over before halftime style victory. While I don’t think Oregon will get crushed the way Nova did, it’s hard to expect a victory considering the trajectory these programs are on right now.
Final Score Prediction
Baylor 79, Oregon 66