I don't imagine that much of worth will be found in all of this by any of the above, though there will be opportunity aplenty for that to take place.
CIVIL WAR… PART TRES…..
Ernie Kent's crew is struggling mightily. Youth must be served as they say and in this case it is being served as hard, HARD labor. The talent level is clearly exemplary, but there is no substitution for composure, experience and recognition when very skilled, more experienced players are seeking to impose their will upon the game.
That those tables will turn is not a Mary Poppins sugar coating of the situation… it is much as it was for the defensive secondary two seasons ago when every quarterback this side of Laredo was looking to have a go at them. Few freshman are capable of dictating a game at the NCAA D-1 level. Carmello Anthony as a freshman at Syracuse enjoyed a reasonably experience supporting cast that allowed him to do so. When there are generally three or for freshman on the floor at a time, it is foolish to view the results as anything but a work-in-progress. The dividends to be realized are not in the won/loss record of today, but in utilizing the experience gained in the here and now to become better in the not too distant future, i.e., the next couple of seasons.
The task at hand for the coaching staff is to build upon the smaller successes each game provides to improve game intelligence, team awareness and confidence and to not let the obvious measures of the wins and losses overwhelm the growth curve. It is clear for all to see, this is a very talented group of players, it is also very easy to forget how short a time ago it was they were playing in much smaller gyms and against much less accomplished opponents. Next year should be something special, as will the years after - barring unforeseeable injuries, departures, etc. For now a head shake and an encouraging word are the best response to what each game may bring.
AND NOW FOR THE LADIES
It was a great weekend for the Lady Ducks as they swept the LA schools at Mac Court last week.
Unquestionably the ladies played their best game of the season in throttling the Women of Troy on Saturday, but the most entertaining game of the season was Thursday's UCLA game. Senior guard Brandi Davis put on the best show at Mac Court since Luke Jackson's 29 straight vs. Colorado in last years NIT.
Davis and Oregon coach Bev Smith are polar opposites in their core tendencies, at least as far as basketball is concerned. Davis is spontaneous and never saw a jump shot she didn't like and Smith is more grounded in structure with a fundamental defense/rebounding orientation to how she views the game is best played.
It hasn't been the easiest of lessons to teach nor receive, by all accounts, but against both the SoCal schools, Davis' defense was markedly more assertive.
Once she comes to understand her use of her skills on the defensive end is rewarded with more relaxed opportunities at the money end of the floor, by the time she is finished there may end up being few finer. Though a senior, as a partial qualifier when she enrolled another year of eligibility is available if she graduates by the end of spring quarter. Her academics are on track and she has indicated her intention to return for another season. Should she do so and put this understanding to long-term use it will be a year well rewarded I'm certain and it will be a delight to watch what she becomes as a player.
As perhaps a kindred spirit who too has crossed swords here and there with some I should and some I shouldn't… well, it's just easier the other way sometimes. But if you do find your way through – and you never find your way through unscathed… damn, it's sweeter for us I swear….
There remains much water for Davis to cross, consistency to her play defensively is an issue only she can correct. The thing is … she could be as equally outstanding as a defender as she is an offensive player, every stinkin' bit as much, an absolute stopper... if she stays off her heels and squares to her man a bit quicker when they receive the pass they won't score many off her.
For a stretch of the UCLA game, she was assigned the defensive task of holding Lisa Willis in check and she did so well. Willis, who is deceptively quick and advantageously sized, will hit the three from somewhere near the concession stand and was a large reason the Bruins were able to build a nine-point lead in the first half. That the Ducks were able to keep Willis under control, even to the expense of allowing Nikki Blue better penetration and access to a number of short jumpers, was a significant element in their holding on for the win.
Brandi got ‘em sparked with her shooting, but she took ‘em home playing defense. From my seat in the stands, that's exactly how the Ducks get really good really fast…. Dangerously good….
An additional element to this melodrama is the pivotal position Davis holds with the forthcoming transition as Andres Bills, Catherine Kraayeveld and Corrie Mizusawa all finish their careers this season. The rest of the roster has a versatile group of younger players who are developing to fill those roles next year, but much like the men's team, there will be limited experience in shouldering the load those three seniors have borne. Davis is uniquely positioned to bridge that gap, should she choose to do so.
If successful in that task, Brandi could end up being the most important player in Duck women's basketball history, and I don't mean that to hype her. It is simply the circumstance. It is up to her to use it to her best advantage, and I think Bev Smith has positioned her to succeed. It appears these two can be quite The Odd Couple at times, and just as the thousands of repeat episodes aired by television stations everywhere demonstrates, there can be a lasting and seriously creative product to that type of chemistry. Eight bucks for a general admission ticket is a bargain….
SOME METHOD TO THE MADNESS…
… is necessary. In order to use the limited organizational ability I possess to best advantage it is time to put some structure to things. In covering the women's basketball games, it is difficult to find the time to do both game coverage and an edition of Quick Quacks the same week. So as the second half of the conference schedule plays out, the intention will be to publish a Quick Quacks each Wednesday the women are scheduled on the road. Till then….