Before I delve into this preview, I must get something off my chest: I have a deep connection with Oregon.
Half my family is from Oregon. I was conceived there. My first choice of schools was Reed College in Portland (I was waitlisted ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). My favorite basketball team is the Portland Trail Blazers. And most damning of all, my secondary rooting interest in college sports is Oregon State. I'm actually wearing a Beavers baseball shirt as I type this.
I don't love them like I do CU, but I am immensely grateful for Oregon State athletics. The Beavers winning back-to-back College World Series in 2006 and 2007 is what instilled my undying passion for baseball (luv u Darwin Barney). Jacquizz Rodgers and Brandin Cooks may be my favorite non-Buffs of all time. I even named my fantasy football team "Too Many Cooks" (watch this if you don't get the reference). One of my very favorite basketball players to watch right is Gary Payton II.
Did you know that Payton, a guard, is leading the Beavers in points, rebounds, assists, steals and is second in blocks? Besides maybe Ben Simmons of LSU or Kris Dunn of Providence, Payton might be the most versatile player in college basketball. I will fight you if you think there's a better perimeter defender than the reigning Pac-12 DPOY.
In short, I'm a bit worried as to whether or not Dominique Collier can mitigate Payton's impact on the game. Collier has been a solid defender as of late, but this will be quite the assignment. On the other end of the matchup, Payton will certainly shut him down offensively. If you want to put a positive spin on it, at least the Beavers will likely use their best defender to guard a player who isn't about to set the world on fire. The same thing applies to Fortune when Payton's on him.
Speaking of matchups, Oregon State doesn't have a shutdown post defender, so Josh Scott could go to town on some Beavers tonight (I am so sorry). But there is a caveat, as there always is: Oregon State plays excellent team defense. Contrary to Colorado's ideal opposing defense, Oregon State gets back on defense and allow minimal transition buckets. To make matters worse, the Beavers will look to stop Scott with a swarming interior defense. Similar to SMU, they will cede perimeter shots to stop high percentage ones.
Colorado will need George King and Tre`Shaun Fletcher to need shoot the top off the defense in order to open up things down low for Scott. Oh, and Josh Fortune and friends need to kinda hold onto the ball to maximize every possession against their methodically paced opponent. If they can do all or most of that, Roll Tad.
Colorado 64, Oregon State 57
As for the Oregon Ducks, I tend to root for them in most sports. Along with Jacquizz and Cooks, I will always endear Dennis Dixon and LaMichael James. That Mariota fella was fun to watch too. That said, I cannot stand the Ducks' basketball team.
Perhaps my loathing of Oregon basketball comes from the greatest game I have ever seen live, the one the Buffs bested the Ducks on Nate Tomlinson's late free throw. My love for Colorado basketball was guaranteed for life after that game. In the heat of battle, everything Oregon did seemed despicable in the moment. When Olu Ashaolu goaltended Andre Roberson, hatred teemed from the bowels of the CEC as the crowd rejoiced in unison to say "Go to Hell" with a hand signal (maybe that's just the signal for a goaltend). When E.J. Singler complained to the ref after he fouled Tomlinson, the only thing stifling my contempt was the massive excitement over the Australian Stallion's ensuing free throw.
Perhaps my disdain for ducks originated completely out of the blue, or maybe it developed over the years. Maybe I wanted an excuse to write about the 2012 Buffs and trying to explain why I don't like Oregon was the easiest way to Hoverboard into that. But I digress.
This year's Oregon Ducks are quite good, as you might expect from the Professor of Dark Arts, Dana Altman. Carrying a 13-3 record through a tough schedule, Oregon is ranked 33rd on KenPom.
So about that schedule: Oregon has lost to UNLV by 11 in Las Vegas, Boise State by 2 in the Bronco's Taco Bell Arena (!), and Oregon State by 13 in Corvallis. Also, Oregon has picked up impressive home wins over Baylor, UC-Irvine, Cal and Stanford.
Out of spite, I'd like to administer disclaimers to Oregon's wins over Baylor and Cal: (1) Baylor was without Taurean Prince, their hyperathletic star, (2) Prince's replacement, Ishmail Wainright, played like a total dingus and likely cost the Bears the game, and (3) Cal couldn't hit one danged three-pointer in a three point loss, essentially wasting great performances from Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb.
If there's any one common theme from Oregon's losses, they play in incredibly sloppy games and somehow always find themselves winning the turnover battle. With massive size disadvantages, Altman is smart to play a relentless press and capitalize on his team's natural ball handling advantage.
Colorado struggles with turnovers but Josh Scott has the potential to bully Oregon mercilessly on the block. If Oregon's 44th ranked defense struggles at any one thing, it's post defense. UCI's Mamadou N'Diaye, UNLV's Stephen Zimmerman, Cal's Ivan Rabb and Stanford's Michael Humphrey were all able to have excellent games against their weak interior defense, and I suspect Scott will do the same, granted the guards can get the ball in him.
Defensively, Colorado will need to watch out for a four-pronged Duck attack. Perhaps the deadliest of the four is Tyler Dorsey, a highly touted Freshman whom Colorado was apparently a finalist in the LA native's recruitment (CU was one of four schools Dorsey visited). To sum up Dane Carbaugh's excellent video breakdown, Dorsey is an excellent marksman (he's shooting 48% from 3) and when an opponent tries to close out on his quick release, he'll get by them with crafty old man game to create better shots for teammates. Colorado will need to force Dorsey into bad decisions and tough shots to capitalize on his youth, and they certainly can't afford him catching fire from deep.
When it's all said and done, I like Colorado's chances to contain Oregon's small ball attack. If they can do that and maintain possession, Josh Scott should have a superb game across the board.
Colorado 85, Oregon 74