Has UO forgotten its inside game?
I guess it would be fair to say the University of Oregon wowed everyone in its first two games of the NCAA basketball tournament. But really, all it did as a No. 2 seed is defeat two teams it was supposed to beat and is on the way to tougher games ahead.
The funny thing about college basketball right now is that the Ducks' greatest strength also could prove to be the team's biggest weakness. There is a slot machine side to college ball right now, with the line for the 3-point field goal line too close to the basket. You make anything past the top of the key Ñ about 3 feet closer than the NBA line in some places Ñ and it's three points.
It's way too tempting for a lot of teams that can't shoot it very well. And it's a seductive danger even for the teams who do fire it at a high percentage.
Take Gonzaga. Please. The Zags have lived and died with the 3-point field goal for several seasons, and it's been the equalizer that allowed the darling of the small schools to stay up with the glamour programs. Heading into the tournament this season, Gonzaga had made the Sweet 16 three consecutive times Ñ and shot 48.4 percent from the long-distance line in its wins. But in its losses, it shot just 30.2 percent on its 3s.
No surprise, the Zags made just 7 of 26 in their first-round loss to Wyoming last week. And really, they had the tables turned on them Ñ losing to a team with less talent.
That brings us to the Ducks, who led the country with 42.4 percent shooting from 3-point range. If anyone should be able to count on being consistent from that distance, it's the Ducks.
But if they have one of those games when the ball simply won't go in for them from long distance, I would worry that they've forgotten how to play on the inside. They've got a 7-foot-2 center with decent hands who hardly ever seems to get the ball. They don't take it to the basket as often as they could. Call me an old-timer, but I think to be consistent, you have to be able to get the easy points at the basket.
For the Ducks, those points often come on fast breaks. But as the competition gets tougher in the tourney, those fast-break points evaporate.
It's imperative that Oregon doesn't become too reliant on 3-point field goals. The Ducks have taken a total of 41 in two games.
The great college teams have the full complement Ñ the deadeye shooters from the outside who open the lane up for the low-post, blue-collar guys on the inside. Or the big-time low-post scorers who help get wide-open looks for the spot-up outside shooters.
At their best, the Ducks get open 3s off penetrations by their guards. But they need to remember to get to the basket often enough to take the pressure off their shooters.
If you get hot from beyond that line, you can make life miserable for any team. But if you live by the three alone, you usually die by it.