Just when Oregon’s schedule cleared up, the medical report clouded.
The Ducks rode into the AP top 10 and to the top spot in Pac-12 with one of the deepest groups in the league, so the loss of freshman point guard Dominic Artis might not be as difficult to handle as it might appear. Not that it will be easy.
Artis, one of the bountiful crop of freshmen whose addition has taken the Pac-12 to another level this season, will miss the No. 10 Ducks’ series in the Bay Area this weekend after suffering an undisclosed foot injury. Oregon (18-2, 7-0) has not released any details, but it appears possible that Artis also could be unavailable for a home series against the Rocky Mountain schools the following weekend.
Losing a starting point guard is not to be taken lightly, even for a team that has five players scoring in double figures and nine averaging at least 11 minutes a game. Artis, 6-foot-1, is averaging 10.2 points a game and a team-high 3.8 assists while starting the first 19 games in coach Dana Altman’s version of the Chip Kelly blur offense. Play seldom stops for this bunch, either. Artis’ 26 3-pointers are tied with senior E.J. Singler for the team high.
Junior Johnathan Loyd and freshman Willie Moore stepped in for Artis in the 81-76 victory over Washington that improved the Ducks to 7-0 in conference play for the first time since 1925-26.
Loyd is expected to remain in the starting lineup after recording nine points, five assists and five turnovers against the Huskies. He has a lot of experience in the system, with 27 starts in his first two seasons, but at 5-foot-8 he is a different type of player than Artis. More than half of Loyd’s field-goal attempts have been 3-pointers. Moore, 6-foot-3, appears to profile more as a shooting guard.
“He’s been here before, and he’s got a lot of experience,” Singler said of Loyd. “I have a lot of faith in him.”
Altman does not appear to have any changes in store for a team that leads the Pac-12 in scoring, field-goal percentage and 3-point field-goal percentage and is second in rebounding margin. The Ducks already have beaten top challengers UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State and will not play any of them again unless they meet in the Pac-12 tournament.
“We need to keep running,” Altman said. “That best suits us, and helps us with our depth. You have to make sure you are putting pressure on the other team.”
ROCKY MOUNTAIN WAY
Colorado has won three in a row to get back to .500 in league play, but because of a strong nonconference schedule the Buffaloes never have been out of the postseason conversation. Most sports website predictions have had Colorado (14-6, 4-4) in the 68-team NCAA field throughout the season, even after its lost weekend in Arizona to open conference play.
Credit coach Tad Boyle for upgrading the schedule to include Kansas and good regional programs Colorado State and Wyoming. The Buffs also swept the Charleston Classic, beating Dayton, Baylor and Murray State, to start off the season strong.
Colorado’s RPI is 20 by RealTimeRPI, and its strength of schedule is rated No. 7. Several sites list the Buffaloes as a No. 7 NCAA seed, comfortably in.
“Going into it, I feel like we overscheduled it,” Boyle said of his early play. “You look at the KU game. That’s a game, even if you lose it, it doesn’t hurt your RPI. It may even help your RPI. The fact that we took care of business with the other games … the biggest thing is you don’t have any bad losses, and you’ve got some good wins against quality opponents. That’s the key to scheduling in the nonconference.”
Colorado plans to continue scheduling that way, Boyle said, and it already is committed to the 2014-15 Diamond Head Classic, known as an exempt tournament because it only counts as one game against the season limit. Arizona won that event this year to cement its national presence.
“Those exempt events are critical. If you can schedule them and win them, it really helps you,” Boyle said
For the first time since 2008, the Pac-12 has two schools in the top 10 in the AP poll, No. 8 Arizona and No. 10 Oregon. The Ducks continued their rapid but deserved ascension with a home sweep of the Washington schools over the weekend, moving up six places.
Oregon (18-2) broke into the Top 25 at No. 21 on Jan. 14 after sweeping the Arizona schools and jumped to No. 16 after beating the Los Angeles schools on the road the next week. The Ducks are in the top 10 for the first time since late in 2007, when an Aaron Brooks-led team took a No. 10 ranking into the NCAA tournament and made the Elite Eight before losing to eventual NCAA champion Florida.
UCLA and Arizona State received enough votes to rank 29th and 30th, respectively. The Bruins did not get much credit for winning at Arizona on Thursday, apparently because they lost while playing without second-leading scorer Travis Wear at Arizona State. At least two NCAA tournament projections include five Pac-12 teams, with Arizona State joining Oregon, Arizona, UCLA and Colorado.