The Husker men's basketball team will be taking on the Oregon Ducks this Saturday at 2:00 PM (CST) in a game that will be shown nationally on Fox Sports.
Oregon is undefeated, and Nebraska has only lost one squeaker on the road to Rutgers. We asked SBNation blogger Dave at the Oregon blog Addicted to Quack some questions about Oregon basketball:
Corn Nation: The Ducks finished with a 14-18 season last year, and a 146 RPI rating. What was the reason for that record, and how will the Ducks improve this year?
ATQ: Well, I think the main reason for the record was that they lost 13 games by eight points or less. They didn't get blown out a whole lot, they just didn't execute well down the stretch. They were also a very young team. They lost only two seniors, neither of whom were very good, and only one of whom played meaningful minutes. So they were really young. And there was also a question of how well the team got along. Both problems seem to be taken care of this year. Everyone seems to be playing much smarter, and having a good time together doing it. Just smarter, tougher basketball with more chemistry has been the biggest difference between this season and last.
Corn Nation: Does the basketball team have 784 different uniform designs?
ATQ: No. This isn't football. Although we do have four, which is quite a lot for basketball. We have green, yellow, white, and black. We could have all the designs that the football team does (basketball has the same base colors), but they'll never wear white shorts with green tops, for example. You'll see the whites or yellows this weekend. They all look a lot better than the football jerseys do (although many of us don't really see what the big deal with the football jerseys is. Look at the jumpsuits they wear up at Oregon State).
Corn Nation: What Oregon players should Husker fans be watching?
ATQ: First off, all Nebraska fans should know that Oregon's posts are garbage and won't play unless there is major foul trouble. That being said, Maarty Leunen, a 6'9" forward has been playing center really well this season. He'll bang inside, but also take you outside and pop the three. He is averaging double digit rebounds, leading the Pac-10 in steals, and plays great defense (he held Georgetown's 7'-2" Roy Hibbert to four points).
Malik Hairston, a 6'7" small forward type is our best player. He sat out the first five game with an injury, but came back for the Georgetown game and looked really sharp. He can create his own shot on the drive, and throw down some monstrous dunks. His major issue is that he is too unselfish.
Finally, there is freshman phenom Tajuan Porter, who has taken Eugene by storm. He's only 5'6", but was averaging over 30 ppg through three games. He's cooled off a bit, but is still playing extremely well. He gets great spacing for his shot, which is nearly flawless. He can also finish at the basket amongst the trees as well.
Corn Nation: When we think of Oregon, we think football, not basketball. Can you do a short summary of the history of Oregon basketball?
ATQ: Sure. Well, Oregon won the first ever NCAA tournament back in 1939, but has had mixed success since then. They didn't do much until the seventies, when they were perenially the last team left on the NCAA tournament bubble (only 32 teams went back then). They didn't do much in the 80's, went to two NCAAs in the 90's. Finally broke through and won the Pac-10 in 2001, and returned to the tourney in 2002, which really raised expectations in Eugene. However, the last three years have been really disappointing, and coach Ernie Kent sits on one of the hottest seats in the country.
Corn Nation: How big is the fan support for Ducks men's basketball?
ATQ: Not as big as it is for football, but a lot better than it is at a lot of other "football" schools. A few years ago, when we were winning, the Ducks were selling out pretty much everything. The last couple years, it has tailed off to more traditional numbers. Our home arena holds about 9,500. It will sell out for most conference games, most non-conference games will linger around 6000-7000. For football, we would sell out even the worst game. Its definitely second fiddle, but, unlike at a lot of football schools, it is by no means an afterthought. Most fans are excited about basketball, if maybe not as much about football. But the football teams bad finish has people talking about the basketball team's hot start. I guess I'll sum it up this way: have a good basketball season, and a lot of people will forget about the way football season has ended (well, until spring, anyway).
Corn Nation: You're coming into the game against Nebraska undefeated, so the season has started very well. Where do you expect the Ducks to finish in conference this year and why?
ATQ: Well, expectations always start off high in Eugene, and the hot start has only confirmed those expectations. We expect a top four conference finish, and a return to the NCAA tournament. Anything less with this bunch is likely to cost Ernie Kent his job. That being said, despite the hot seat, EK has done a very good job thus far this season, and barring a football-esque collapse, we should be in pretty good shape.