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Cal Basketball

The BearInsider Scout: Slowing Payton Pritchard & the Ducks

January 29, 2020

This year, there’s no talking about the Oregon Ducks men’s basketball team without first mentioning Payton Pritchard. The senior point guard is all Oregon and is having a huge final lap to his collegiate career. A former four-star recruit from the Portland suburbs, Pritchard picked the home state Ducks over Oklahoma and a slew of other high-major programs. After a down junior season, Pritchard is putting together an All-American season and is one of the country’s best point guards.

Pritchard is Oregon’s leading scorer and passer, averaging just under 20 points and six assists a game. He’s scored at least 20 points in five of Oregon’s eight Pac-12 games and the games in which he didn’t score 20, he scored 18 in one and 19 in the other two. Besides Pritchard, Chris Duarte has been the other major source of point production for the Ducks and is averaging 14.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Duarte has been playing very well the past two games, scoring 30 points against USC and 24 against UCLA.

The Ducks were picked by the media to win the conference and looked as good as billed early in the season. Oregon notched impressive early-season wins over Memphis, Houston, and Seton Hall before losing in overtime to Gonzaga and then a close one to North Carolina. Then Oregon went into Ann Arbor and beat Michigan. Of course, many of these games aren’t looking as impressive as they did at the time as UNC’s season has unraveled, as it has for Michigan and Memphis.

Oregon opened Pac-12 play with an understandable loss in Boulder but also has an unexpected loss to Washington State in Pullman. Still, it will be the second time in two games Cal faces the leagues current first-place team.

When Cal has the Ball

Stat Cal Oregon
Adj. Eff. 99.2 (238) 96.9 (79)
Avg. Poss. Length 19.1 (326) 18.1 (304)
Eff. FG% 46.6% (286) 45.8% (48)
TO% 19.6% (210) 19.3% (159)
Off. Reb. % 25.4% (260) 31.7% (305)
FTA/FGA 33.4 (152) 29.6 (125)
3P% 33.3% (161) 31.6% (101)
2P% 45.3% (311) 44.8% (48)
FT% 72.3% (112) 73.7% (315)
Block% 9.0% (181) 9.4% (143)
Steal% 6.8% (9) 11.4% (41)
Non-Stl TO% 12.8% (337) 7.9% (341)

Oregon’s defense has been less than intimidating. The Ducks have held teams to low shooting percentages (45.8% eFG%) and have created steals (11.4% steal rate), but Oregon is vulnerable. For one, Oregon has been giving up offensive rebounds at a high rate. Coming into the season, Oregon looked like a team that would have strong experienced perimeter play with young exciting talent in the frontcourt with bluechip recruits N’Faly Dante and CJ Walker. Neither Dante or Walker has looked as good as expected and Dante has been nursing a knee injury and is questionable for Thursday’s game in Berkeley.

The result has been a slightly depleted and undersized frontline for the Ducks. Cal could try to take advantage by driving, drawing fouls, and (gulp) pounding the ball inside to Andre Kelly, Lars Thiemann, and DJ Thorpe. This could also be a game where Grant Anticevich gets going again. We’ll see. The Bears could have troubles with the lengthy perimeter players of Pritchard, Duarte, Will Richardson, and Anthony Mathis. They are experienced and besides Pritchard, all stand from 6-4 to 6-6. 

When Oregon has the Ball

Stat Oregon Cal
Adj. Eff. 116.7 (6) 100.3 (131)
Avg. Poss. Length 18.0 (248) 17.6 (228)
Eff. FG% 54.5% (16) 48.5% (147)
TO% 17.6% (72) 18.2% (235)
Off. Reb. % 33.1% (43) 27.2% (135)
FTA/FGA 30.8 (221) 36.1 (263)
3P% 38.5% (13) 35.5% (274)
2P% 52.6% (60) 45.4% (65)
FT% 68.9% (227) 73.4% (304)
Block% 10.1% (272) 7.6% (225)
Steal% 6.1% (2) 6.4% (344)
Non-Stl TO% 11.5 (288) 11.8% (45)

This is where it could get scary. Besides the USC game, Cal’s defense has been looking better in Pac-12 play. And with Oregon’s frontcourt of Shakur Juiston, Chandler Lawson, and Francis Okoro struggling a bit, it makes the scout on the Ducks a little more one-dimensional. But Pritchard is probably the conference’s best player right now — certainly on offense — and Paris Austin and Joel Brown will be tasked with staying in front of him. 

Besides Pritchard, the Bears have Duarte, Richardson, and Mathis to worry about. That foursome averages between 38% and 42% from three and can all put it on the deck and create scoring opportunities. Mark Fox has gone into zone before and we might see Cal switching between man and zone to try to slow Oregon’s perimeter players.

Keys to the Game

Perimeter play. There’s just no way around this. Pritchard, Duarte, and company have the ability to blow this game open. But if Cal is able to frustrate and slow down the perimeter players as it did against Stanford, it could keep it close. 

Pace. Speaking of slowing the game down, Cal has done a good job at that recently. Oregon doesn’t play fast, so it’s not conflicting styles of play. But Cal needs to do what Cal has been doing when it’s at its best — turn the game into an ugly slog. If Cal limits Oregon’s opportunities to score, it could help the Bears stay close.

Create second-chance points. Oregon ranks 305th in the country in keeping teams off the offensive glass. Cal should focus on crashing the offensive glass and create second- and third-chance opportunities to get the ball in the hoop.

Turnovers. Oregon commits a lot of non-steal turnovers and Cal forces a lot of non-steal turnovers. On the flip side, Oregon forces a lot of steals and Cal has been very good at not giving up a lot of steals. If this is a low-possession game like Cal should try to create, it magnifies the importance of each possession. If Cal is able to win and take advantage of the turnover battle, the Bears’ odds of keeping the game close obviously increases.

KenPom says … 70-60, Oregon win chance 81%

The KenPom Stanford projection was 67-58, Stanford win chance of 79%. Just saying. 

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