Oregon head coach Dana Altman talks with Oregon center Nate Bittle (32) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Andy Nelson)
It is an intriguing contest when No. 13 Oregon (1-0) hosts SMU (1-0) Friday Night at 11pm. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.The SMU Mustangs are coming off an easy 24-point against McNeese State in their last outing. Oregon comes into Friday off the strength of a 83-66 win against Texas Southern.
Odds via Draftkings on November 11th.
Oregon enters the season as the second choice to win the Pac-12 (+350) and this writer’s choice to do exactly that. The Ducks made their fifth Sweet Sixteen under head coach Dana Altman last season. They battled through several COVID issues and won another Pac-12 regular-season title. They have plenty questions to answer in 2021, but they also have plenty of talent to help answer those questions.
SMU an Experienced Team
Credit to Oregon for scheduling a tough mid-major squad in November. That’s exactly who SMU is and there is no guarantee a win helps Oregon much. The Mustangs bring a starting lineup to Eugene that features all seniors. They are led by 5’11 guard Kendric Davis, a unanimous All American Conference First Team selection. He dropped 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists against McNeese State to open the season.
SMU Basketball G Kendric Davis was one of 50 candidates named to the 2021-22 Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy Watch List, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced today. The annual honor is awarded to the nation’s Division I Men’s College Player of the Year. pic.twitter.com/RFBUzAQeBF
— D210SPORTS (@D210S) November 8, 2021
SMU went 11-6 in a COVID-shortened season last year. They lost a heartbreaker to Houston in the AAC Championship. A win would have sent them to the NCAA Tournament. They were competitive in every game and likely better than their record indicated.
Last season, the Mustangs were one of the best transition offenses in the country. Transition chances were over 20% of their offense. They averaged 1.1 points per possession there. Davis led many of those transition opportunities, alongside Feron Hunt (now in the NBA). The Mustangs generally play at a reasonable tempo but they like to run; when they can do that, they become very tough to beat.
Oregon Flying Under the Radar
The word “underrated” is as synonymous with Oregon as Dana Altman is. Sometimes the Ducks start strong, sometimes they don’t. Yet each season, they are a team that heats up, looks primed for March, then goes undervalued by Vegas along with the public. I think that happens yet again with this Oregon team.
Altman lost six of his nine rotational players from last year’s roster. He lost all three of his top scorers. Because of that, they’ll take a moment to gel, although the pieces are very much there. Rutgers transfer Jacob Young is a legitimate high-level point guard. He averaged 14 points per game. He was the primary ball handler for a Scarlet Knights team with limited talent outside Geo Baker.
You don’t replace Chris Duarte but Young is a good option. Look for him to improve as the season goes on and to become a high-level point guard by the time March arrives.
Welcome to Eugene!
Rutgers transfer Jacob Young tallied 14 points (5-8 FG, 2-5 3PT FG), 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal in his Oregon debut. (📸:@scottboldtphoto) pic.twitter.com/lHYNBjlu9K
— Oregon Ducks on Sports Illustrated (@DucksDigest) November 10, 2021
Last season, the Ducks lacked front-court size and that was a big reason why they lost in the Tournament. That won’t be the case now. They have depth and a star-studded group of four former top-100 centers. It’s highlighted by N’Faly Dante from Bamako, Mali. Dante started all six games for Oregon before being injured last season. In those games he averaged 8 points and just over 5 rebounds.
Much like his counterparts, I think he’ll take a bit of time to adjust back up to game speed and gel with the rest of his team. When Dante finally does, the Ducks will be a group to watch on the national scale. They’ll have size, depth and athleticism to compete with anyone in the Country. The team you see Friday night will be quite different than the one you see a few months from now.
I’m high on Oregon and I picked them to win the Pac-12 this season but I’m going against them here. If the Mustangs played this game a month from now, they may lose by double-digits. But this is November and SMU is getting Oregon at the perfect time.
We’re ready for takeoff ✈️
See you soon, Oregon 👋🏼
Tomorrow we go up against #13 Oregon at 10pm CT. You don’t want to miss it. ⬇️ 🏀#PonyUp https://t.co/8FfNkRF38m pic.twitter.com/YtMjPTJQAz
— SMU Basketball (@SMUBasketball) November 12, 2021
This is a sneaky team coming into Eugene. They won’t be intimidated by being outsized or the name on the opponents jersey. Last season, Oregon ranked in the bottom half of the NCAA in transition defense. As noted, that’s where SMU thrived.
That, coupled with the team still needing time to get together, will spell doom for the Ducks. Not only am I taking the Mustangs to cover the 6.5-point spread, I’m picking SMU to pull off the shocker.
The Pick: SMU ML (+225) and SMU +6.5 (-110)