Oregon Ducks

Defense will tell story of Ducks playoff options

Oregon needs to impress CFP voters to get a spot
By Cliff Pfenning

Offense wins games. Defense wins championships. This is what University of Oregon football fans should focus on for the final month of the season as the LSU at Alabama is set to play out Saturday.

With Oregon placed at No. 7 in the first College Football Playoff rankings, winning out the final four games might seem to guarantee a spot in the Final Four due to so many teams ahead of it playing each other. Only three teams have a chance at going unbeaten and if the Ducks end up with one loss and the Pac-12 title, they should be a natural pick for that honor.

But, the selection committee is going to look at the actual resume of the teams involved, and the loser of Saturday’s game might be a more logical choice for the fourth CFP spot, simply because they might be a better team, at least to the naked eye. This is where defense comes in.

Oregon can score points. That’s not a question. But, keeping the opponent out of the end zone is where the Ducks will make the biggest impression in the next month. They absolutely need to destroy their remaining opponents: Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon State on defense. And, beat Utah. This is the way to pump up the Oregon resume and put some major pressure on the CFP voters to offer the West Coast at least a chance to win the title. Remember the Ducks are really just a few inches away - a fourth down on Auburn’s final drive - from being unbeaten. (Auburn, which lost 23-20 at LSU two weeks ago, plays Alabama at the close of the regular season and can be a wrench in this whole argument for a second time).

Oregon’s defense has been up to the challenge for most of the season, especially on Saturday even with giving up 24 points. The dominance of the USC offense as the game went on was huge in the outcome, regardless of the 56 points put up on the scoreboard. The Ducks need to ratchet that performance up a couple notches - and not just focus on winning. But, complete dominance, even after possibly trailing due to a first-quarter score (the Ducks have trailed in the first quarter or first half of its past three games, allowing an average of 32 points per game over that stretch. They need to do much better for the CFP to come calling. 

The CFP voters aren’t going to look at a record so much as it’s belief in a team being able to win. I’d be doing that, too, and currently don’t think the Ducks are a top-four team. Even with the current eight-game win streak, I felt that way throughout the Auburn game - notably with the Tigers starting a true freshman. Auburn won the game at the end with an 18-year-old making plays. The Ducks started a senior and didn’t make the key plays. But, that’s changed as the season has progressed, including a game-winning drive in the final minute to beat Washington State.

The final four weeks - a blowout in the Pac-12 final - will do a lot to convince me they can beat Alabama or Clemson or Ohio State, and that’s what will get the votes to actually have that chance. 

And, the defense is the key to that.

 

 

Ducks start as Preseason favorites

Oregon's women are No. 1, men at No. 17
By Cliff Pfenning, Publisher

The Oregon basketball program has been improving in quality on an annual basis, but this season may be one of the finest for the combined men's and women's teams, at least according to Sports Illustrated magazine and it's preseason rankings.

Oregon starts out as No. 1 in the women's rankings, while the men are at No. 17. Only Maryland and Baylor have a women's team in the Top 10 and men's team in the Top 25. Baylor is No. 2 and 18, while Maryland is No. 5 and 7.

The Ducks are coming off perhaps their best post-season run with the women's team reaching the Final Four and the men's team getting to the Sweet 16. Only the 2017 tournament was better for the program as the men reached the Final Four, while the women played into the Elite 8.

Could this be the year for a national champion in Eugene?

Both teams are coming off Pac-12 Tournament titles.

The women open their season No. 11 with a home game against Northeastern.

The men's team, led by four-year starter Payton Pritchard, open Nov. 5 against Fresno State, and play No. 16 Memphis in Portland, Nov. 12.

 

Off to the NCAA!

MONDAY 4CAST: Oregon women, Pac-12 men, Blazers, Winterhawks
Staff report

Oregon's fabulous season continued to get better Sunday as the women's basketball team beat Stanford and won the Pac-12 Conference Tournament for the first time.

Sabrina Ionescu had a career game at the right time, scoring 36 points in 38 minutes to lead the 77-57 win over the Cardinal at Key Arena.

Oregon, ranked sixth in the nation, trailed early, but led 18-17 after the first quarter and steadily pulled away to improve to 30-4 overall. The win avenged a 78-65 loss to Stanford in Eugene in February - the team's last loss.

Ionescu, who ended up as the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, scored 14 of Oregon's points in the first quarter and equaled Stanford's 17 points by scoring a three-point play to start the second quarter.

Next up, the Ducks head to the NCAA Tournament, which will be announced Monday, March 12, at 4 p.m. The West Regional is set to be played in Spokane, Wash.

2. PAC-12 MEN'S TOURNAMENT

Oregon and Oregon State got paired with the Washington schools for the conference tournament, which begins Wednesday in Las Vegas.

The Ducks, who beat Washington for their 20th win Saturday night, take on Washington State.

Oregon State takes on Washington in one of the other three first-round games.

Conference champion Arizona, USC, Utah and UCLA earned the first-round byes. Oregon, seeded sixth, will play Utah with a win. Oregon State, seeded 10th, would play USC.

3. BLAZERS HEAD TO LA

Portland takes its six-game win streak to Los Angeles to take on the streaking Lakers having played all the way to the third seed in the Western Conference over the weekend.

With its win over Oklahoma City Saturday, Portland is 37-26 and a half-game ahead of New Orleans and Minnesota in the conference standings. The Blazers, though, are just two games ahead of eighth-place Denver.

4. HAWKS GO NORTH

The Portland Winterhawks scored a pair of home wins over the weekend, and now travel to Prince George, B.C., for games Tuesday and Wednesday night before returning home for a pair of games Friday and Saturday.

 

 

 

 

Ducks soar in second half

Oregon overcomes horrid first half for 68-65 win at Cal
Staff report

A season-low point total in the first half only served to make Wednesday's game at Cal more exciting for Oregon men's basketball fans who travelled to Berkeley, Calif.

Dillon Brooks scored the final three of his 22 points on a long-range shot with 0.2 seconds left to rally the No. 6 Ducks to a 68-65 win over the upset-minded Golden Bears.

Cal held Oregon to just 16 points through 20 minutes - a low for any team coach Dana Altman has guided since arriving in Eugene in 2010, and led 32-16 early in the second half. Oregon still trailed by 10 with 4:15 left before finding a rhythm behind Dillon Brooks and Christian Boucher, who combined for 35 points in the second half.

Oregon finally took its first lead with 1:51 left on a Boucher lay-up, and eventually finished the game on a 19-6 run capped by Brooks' basket - his second game-winning shot in the final second this season.

Oregon improved to 25-4 overall and 14-2 in Pac-12 play heading into a road game at Stanford Saturday.

Cal dropped to 18-9, 9-6, and will play host to Oregon State Saturday.

 

 

Give the Dodgers a chance

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 11:39pm
Cliff Pfenning
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When you reflect on all the pro teams from the five major leagues across the US: NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, NHL and even Major League Soccer, what's the top brand name for fans across the nation and even worldwide?

The New England Patriots might be No. 1 in terms of Super Bowls won in the past decade, but does anyone in Greece know who they are?

The New York Yankess, due to their long history of success, have to be one of the top teams. The Dallas Cowboys, due to their success during the television age and cheerleaders, are a top consideration, too. Red Sox, Cubs, Packers, Lakers, Knicks, Celtics ... even the Browns - the Sportsland, Oregon episode connects with those topics.

I would love the Los Angeles/Brooklyn Dodgers to be up there.

LISTEN NOW

Timbers? Portland's soccer franchise has to be one of the top US brands in the sport because of its fans, but it's got a long ways to go to be an international brand. That's something that comes with straying into the international scene, and the Timbers haven't really done that other than host an English team now and then. So, does the Timbers Army even want to be known in Scotland, or Sweden or Germany?

And, why are the upcoming tournaments for college and high school basketball players so long and short at the same time?

Good stuff to listen to on the Sportland podcast.

 

Oregon narrowly misses a huge win

Ducks lose 31-28 at Michigan State, but show they're title contenders
Sept. 12, 2015 / Oregonsports.com

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Connor Cook threw for two touchdowns, and No. 5 Michigan State held on to beat No. 7 Oregon 31-28 on Saturday night in college football's marquee game of the week.

The Spartans stopped the Ducks four times on fourth down, including one key stand in the second quarter near the Michigan State goal line.

The Spartans (2-0) led for most of the second half, and it was 31-21 before Oregon's Vernon Adams, Jr. threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Byron Marshall with 3:25 remaining. After a Michigan State punt, the Ducks (1-1) drove to the Spartans 33 before Adams overthrew Marshall, who had beaten his defender on second down. A sack moved the team out of field goal range and Adams missed on the pass that effectively ended the game.

Michigan State avenged last season's 48-27 loss at Oregon, which will play Georgia State at Autzen Stadium Saturday.

It was the first time two teams in the AP top 10 met at Spartan Stadium since 1966, when No. 2 Michigan State and No. 1 Notre Dame played to a 10-10 tie.

Adams, who threw two interceptions – half of the team's total from all of last season, nearly rallied the Ducks. His scoring pass to Marshall marked the 70th consecutive game Oregon has thrown a touchdown pass, breaking a record the Ducks had been sharing with Texas Tech.

In what overall was a shaky performance, Adams completed 22 of 39 passes for 309 yards and the scoring pass. Most of the yards were picked up after the initial completion by receivers Braylon Addison, Charles Nelson and Byron Marshall.

Addison, in addition to his seven catches for 138 yards, returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown.







 

Former Duck active in Lithuania

Mike Moser's career takes him to the Baltic States for league, EuroCup play
Jan. 18, 2014 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal

Mike Moser make some noise with his workouts for NBA teams in summer, but that wasn't enough to earn a selection in the 2014 Draft. It didn't stall his basketball career, though.

Moser, a former Grant High and University of Oregon standout, landed with the Lithuania club BC Lietuvos rytas, which plays its home games in Vilnius in the 11-team Lithuanian league. He is one of three U.S. nationals playing for the team: Travis Leslie out of Georgia, and Billy Baron out of Canisius; are the others.

Moser had training camp invitations from several teams, according to his agent Adam Pensack, but opted to sign with Rytas for one season. The contract does not contain an NBA opt out. "Great opportunity for him. Couldn't pass it up," Pensack, told MassLive after he signed. "Great team. Good opportunity financially."

His current club is one of the most successful in the league history, having won five league titles and finishing second 10 other times in the 21-year history of the league. Last season, though, the team finished third and played its way into the second-tier league amongst European club teams - the EuroCup.

In a recent game, Moser had 20 points and nine rebounds in a 91-61 victory that moved the team to 13-2 overall, 0.5 games behind league power Zalgiris, which is led by 2010 Big 12 Player of the Year James Lee Anderson. Anderson played last season with the Philadelphia 76ers before moving to Lithuania.

In EuroCup play, Rytas is 7-2 and leads its six-team group.

 

Beavers lead in-state NCAA sweep

OSU, Oregon, PSU and Portland all score conference wins Thursday
Jan. 22, 2015 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal

Oregon State’s incredible home-court run continued unabated on Thursday night as the Beavers knocked off UCLA 66-55 to remain undefeated at Gill Coliseum on a night all four of Oregon’s NCAA Div. I schools won.

The Beavers (13-5, 4-2 Pac-12) improved to 11-0 at home, equaling their best start since the 1981-82 team won all 11 of its home games. They have now defeated UCLA three times in a row at Gill Coliseum for the first time since 1989-91.

Junior guard Gary Payton II had 18 points, seven rebounds, six assists and five steals in leading the Beavers to their fourth win in their last five games. He had 15 points five rebounds and four steals in the first half alone.

In Eugene, Oregon beat Southern Cal 75-67, Portland beat visiting Pacific 72-69, and Portland State beat Weber State on the road, 69-63.

A week ago, all four schools lost on Thursday night.

OSU sophomore guard Malcolm Duvivier went 8-of-8 from the line in the closing 54 seconds and finished with 19 points, six rebounds and five assists as the Beavers scored another emotional win before an energized crowd of 6,024 - the memory of the team’s upset of No. 7 Arizona two weeks ago still fresh.

The Beavers shot 51 percent (22-43) from the field, hit 16 of 18 free throws and limited the Bruins (11-8, 3-3) to 31 percent shooting overall (19-62) and 24 percent (6-25) from 3-point range.

OREGON
The Ducks ended a two-game losing streak with a late surge against the Trojans, who rallied back from a 16-2 deficit to tie the game at 61-all. Oregon then hit a 9-0 run to take over the game before a crowd of 5,652 at Matthew Knight Arena.

Joseph Young led Oregon with 19 points.

PORTLAND
Sophomore guard Alec Wintering hit a 3-point shot at the buzzer to provide the winning margin for the Pilots at the Chiles Center.
Kevin Bailey led the team with 21 points, and Thomas Vander Mars added 17 points and eight rebounds for teh Pilots, who take on St. Mary’s Saturday. The Gaels lost at Gonzaga

Thursday in a battle for the WCC lead.

PORTLAND STATE

Thursday’s win boosted the Vikings into fifth place in the Big Sky Conference, and bumped the Wildcats to seventh - the standings would have been switched had the outcome been reversed. PSU plays at last-place Idaho State Saturday.

 

Semifinal pairings could not be better

The storylines make the College Football Playoff Committee shine
Dec. 7, 2014 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal

No matter what Texas Christian fans might be thinking today, and those from Baylor, too, college football fans definitely got their money's worth out of the committee that selected the four teams that will play for the national title - they got drama and excitement.

There could not have been a better finale to the regular season than Saturday's games - none of them upsets, which led to all the hype over what the committee would do with Big 10 champion Ohio State and the two co-champions of the Big 12: TCU and Baylor.

Would TCU drop from its spot at third last week to lower than fourth and miss the playoffs?

Would Baylor move up to fourth because of its win over TCU during the regular season?

Would Ohio State's stunning victory over Wisconsin in the Big 10 title game boost it to fourth, despite being No. 5 last week?

Would the Big 12 teams get the shaft for not having a title game? And, why doesn't the conference have a title game - it doesn't like money?

So many questions, so much hype. It's exactly what the playoffs are supposed to create, and it did - the SEC West even played its way out of any discussion it should have two teams involved thanks to Mississippi State losing not only to Alabama, but then to Mississippi.

Ultimately, Ohio State got the nod as the fourth playoff team, and it was clear-cut in the voting, too, in remarks made following the release of the pairings. And, that's what should have happened - the four conference champions earned their spot in the semifinals, while the Big 12 co-champions were left to ponder what would have happened if they had played a conference title game ... or just went unbeaten.

TCU lost 61-58 to Baylor (defense, eh?), while Baylor lost at West Virginia the week after its win over the Horned Frogs.

What a season, and it's not over. Remember Mississippi State's rise from being unranked to No. 1? That seems like such a long time ago. And, Oregon dropping from No. 3 to 12 in one week after it's humbling loss at home to Arizona. But, that was the week before seemingly the entire nation got upset on a single day - Baylor included.

The semifinals are not just great in terms of teams involved, but storylines, too. Oregon and Florida State are likely to have two Heisman Trophy winners involved, while Alabama and Ohio State have coaches with numerous games between them.

There's nearly a month to pump up the games.

Look out ratings records.

 

 

 

OSU's million-to-one shot

The Beavers get a rare chance for historic glory Saturday against Oregon
Nov. 26, 2014 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal

Corvallis is plenty off the beaten path in the college football world, so it's hard for the Oregon State football team to get a lot of publicity. But, that won't be true Saturday, so it's as big an opportunity to make an impact in front of the nation's fans and incoming recruits as the program is going to get.

The Beavers get to play in-state rival Oregon at home and on national television with the Ducks needing only win by any margin to continue their path toward the College Football Playoffs.

Oregon State, meanwhile, is playing for its football life - especially its seniors. The Beavers have five wins and need a sixth to become bowl. So a win Saturday extends the season by a month. And, a sixth win qualifies coach Mike Riley for a bonus of more than $1.5 million as it would add another year onto his contract for winning six games.

Riley has never seemed like someone motivated by money (and his contract already runs through 2021), but the game is being played at Reser Stadium, and being on national TV with the win moving his team to a bowl game, it might just be what his staff needs to produce what would be one of its biggest upsets.

There's plenty of elements in place for Saturday, too.

First, it's at home. The Beavers just seem to be a different animal at home. Almost all of their big wins are at Reser these days, starting with USC. OSU hasn't beaten USC in Los Angeles since 1964, but it's owned the team in the past decade at Reser, regardless of the Trojans' rankings.

Two weeks ago, the Beavers beat No. 7 Arizona State at Reser, 35-27.

Saturday is the final home game for seniors, led by quarterback Sean Mannion.

Second, the Ducks are ranked No. 2, and have beaten the Beavers six straight times - so they should win. The betting line is by nearly three touchdowns, too. This is one of the best elements an underdog has available - surprise, even if the Ducks publicly say they're fully ready. In Oregon's lone loss - to Arizona on its home field, it was rated a 23-point favorite.

And, Oregon has shown it's available for a big loss, too. At Utah, the Ducks were on their way to being down 14-0 when fate intervened in the form of a historic "Not Top 10" play. Even then, the game was 30-27 in the second half.

Third, it's on ABC. If there's a way to pump up a group of seemingly overmatched football players, just put some cameras in their faces and tell them every play they make has the potential to be a national headline.

Oregon is already in the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game, so it realistically only needs to win by one point, which it did last year, 36-35 at Autzen Stadium. That's going to be in player's heads throughout the game.

Oregon Stat's best chance is a dominating start, especially on defense. And, it's performed well on defense. Against ASU, the defense gave up only 20 points as one of the Sun Devils' scores was on a fumble return.

Saturday's game looks like a blowout on paper - for Oregon fans, and maybe the world. But, it's one of the biggest wins the Beavers can ever have, one the program will celebrate for decades, and that opportunity doesn't come along very often.

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