NCAA Thursday Night Basketball: Oregon/Arizona State Preview

by Big Al Staff

An ESPN doubleheader concludes at 9 PM ET with two Pac-12 teams battling to salvage seasons impacted by COVID.

Oregon ended a two-game losing streak on Saturday with an 86-74 win against Washington as a 12.5-point favorite. The Ducks did not have their leader-scoring, Chris Duarte, and their fourth-leading scorer, Eric Williams, Jr., for that game but still shot 49.2% from the field for their best field goal percentage in conference play this season. Oregon also made 12 of 25 shots from 3-point land for a 48% clip, which was the top mark from behind the arc all season for head coach Dana Altman’s team.

Eugene Omoruyi led the way with 25 points. The former Rutgers transfer is second on the team with a 17.6 points-per-game scoring average. He has reached double-digits in 13 of his last 14 games. Will Richardson added 19 points. He is third with a 14.5 points-per-game scoring average.

The Ducks will be playing their third game since experiencing a three-game pause because of COVID in January. Oregon is 10-4 this season with a 5-3 record in the Pac-12. They have lost to Missouri and Colorado while suffering disappointing setbacks to Oregon State and Washington State. The Ducks’ highest-profile wins are against Seton Hall and Stanford.

Altman returned two starters and multiple rotation players from the group that finished 24-7 last year. He brought in an influx of transfer players, including L.J. Figueroa from St. John’s, Amauri Hardy from UNLV, Omoruyi, and Williams, who came over from Duquesne.

Oregon has rarely been at full strength this season. They rank 33rd in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. They are fifth in adjusted offensive efficiency in the Pac-12 while making 36.8% of their 3-pointers, fourth-best in the conference. The Ducks are 57th in the nation at kenpom in adjusted defensive efficiency. They rank 5th in adjusted defensive efficiency in the Pac-12 while ranking second by forcing turnovers in 22.1% of their opponent’s possessions in conference play.

Duarte is the team’s leading scorer with a 17.8 points-per-game scoring average. The senior is doubtful to play with an ankle injury. Williams remains questionable as he remains in quarantine. 

Arizona State returns to the court after their second pause because of COVID. The Sun Devils had two games with Utah postponed along with a game against Colorado. They last played on January 30th when they defeated Stanford by a 79-75 score as a 3-point favorite. Remy Martin led the team with 23 points while adding six assists. The senior is third in the Pac-12 with an 18.0 points-per-game scoring average.

Arizona State had been on a six-game losing streak through most of January before winning their last two against California and the Cardinal before their most recent pause in play. Head coach Bobby Hurley’s team also experienced a three-week pause earlier in the season. It took three weeks for head coach Bobby Hurley’s team to play again after getting upset by UTEP, 76-63, despite being a 13-point favorite on December 16th. Arizona State was without four players in their regular rotation, including captain Remy Martin when they returned to the court on January 7th against UCLA. Yet the undermanned group took the Bruins to overtime before losing, 81-75.

This team was considered Hurley’s most talented in his sixth year with the program. Martin and Alonzo Verge bypassed the NBA to return to the team, and Hurley added a five-star potential one-and-done recruit in Josh Christopher. COVID complications and playing shorthanded explains much of the reasons why the Sun Devils are 6-8 at this point of the season. Yet the play on the court has been a disappointment. Arizona State is making only 30.5% of their shots from 3-point land in conference play, which is problematic in Hurley’s run-and-gun system that prioritizes 3-point shooting. The Sun Devils take 38.5% of their shots from behind the arc, 147th most in the nation, yet only 29.2% of their points come from these shots, 214th. Arizona State is 3-5 in conference play with a win against Stanford.

Hurley has lost three players due to COVID, with Taeshon Curry being the most significant as he averaged over 16 minutes-per-game.

BetAnySports lists Arizona State as a 2-point road favorite with the total set at 151.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

© 2021 Al McMordie's BigAl.com. All Rights Reserved.