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Q & A with Oregon Ducks blog

Utah faces the Oregon Ducks this Saturday in the Pape Jam and in getting to know each team, Dave from Addicted to Quack and I exchanged questions on our respective teams. You can read what I had to say to his questions here and, of course, his questions are answered below.

Block U: 1. Ernie Kent was on the hot seat entering last season, yet he managed to have a pretty successful year. Do you think he's the right coach for Oregon? It's said that he doesn't develop prized recruits, do you believe this and did Oregon win in spite of coaching last year -- kind of like how many Utah fans feel the Utes rode Andrew Bogut to the Sweet 16 in Ray Giacoletti's first season.

Dave, Addicted to Quack: There was a time when I myself was flirting with the "fire Ernie" bandwagon. That said, at least for me, that time has passed, and I do think that Ernie Kent is the right coach for Oregon. The Ducks are the traditional doormat of the Pac-10, and Ernie has led them unprecedented success. He may not be the greatest X's and O's coach, but he brings in other advantages. He is a great recruiter. Given Oregon's lack of history and antiquated basketball facilities (though a new arena is in the works for the 2010 season), he has done a phenomenal job building this program. Before EK took over as coach, the Ducks had been to one NCAA tournament in 30 years. He has built a nationwide recruiting base. In his ten plus years as coach, they've been to two Elite Eights. And Kent is on the doorstep of becoming the team's all-time winningest coach. How many teams are looking to fire the greatest coach in the history of their program?

Ernie is largely a victim of both his own success and the unrealistic expectations of sports fans these days. By leading the program to a Pac Ten Championship or an Elite Eight, some people start to expect that to happen every year. But it takes time to build the program to a North Carolina or UCLA status, and its unreasonable for Oregon to be at that level right now. There were also issues with a possible extramaritial affair at the same time that Oregon was going through their worst season of the decade that upset a lot of fans. Some fans were also upset that he couldn't get Kevin Love or Kyle Singler to come to Oregon, although those were unreasonable demands. Both were pretty clear that they wanted to go to traditional powers. To hold that against EK with his impeccable track record of recruiting was unfair. I think that he would have been fired had he not made the tourney with the group we had last year, but I also think that some fans are just spoiled. The grass is not always greener on the other side.

Block U: 2. The Ducks are off to another strong start and poised to make noise in the Pacific Ten once again. What are the expectations for this season?

Dave, Addicted to Quack: Considering almost everyone is back this year (with the notable exception of Aaron Brooks,) Oregon fans expect a top three or four conference finish and an NCAA tournament berth. When you have a senior laden team with postseason experience, you tend to expect them to do pretty well. They seem to be getting stronger every game.

Some Duck fans are screaming for another Elite Eight. Like I said, some fans are also unreasonable.

Block U: 3. Out of Malik Hairston, Maarty Leunen, Tajuan Porter and Bryce Taylor, each toward the top in the NCAA in scoring, who should Utah be more concerned with? How does the Ducks defense look this year?

Dave, Addicted to Quack: You have to be concerned with all of them. Any of them could go for 25 on any given night, it just depends who is on that day. Oregon plays a run and gun style. They will push the tempo, even on a made basket. In the halfcourt, they will try to penetrate to the rim, then kick out to the outside shooters. Hairston, Porter, and Taylor are all capable of lighting it up from outside on any given night, and if all of them are on, there is no way the opponent wins the game. Leunen and Joevan Catron, while undersized, are both great rebounders, but are also scoring threats inside. Both can put their back to the basket if needed, but also stroke the three.

The defense has been suspect at times, and that's why UO lost the St. Mary's game. But they really cleaned that up against Kansas State, and really contained Michael Beasley.

Block U: 4. How did Saint Mary's manage to beat Oregon? Was it a fluke, did they exploit a weakness with this team or are the Gaels really that good?

Dave, Addicted to Quack: In all honesty, I didn't see that game. But, from everything I've heard, St. Mary's really is that good. Expect them to be an NCAA tournament team. That game was a breakdown in defense. It didn't help that Bryce Taylor, who is really the do everything glue to this team, missed that game with injury. Oregon has really turned up the defense since then. And if they continue to play D as they did against KSU, they will be fine. St. Mary's is not a bad loss, especially on the road.

Block U: 5. The last time the Utes and Ducks met, Utah won a close one in the 2003 NCAA Tournament. Has the Ducks' offense and defense changed much since then? With Luke Nevill being so much of Utah's offense, will the Ducks go to a more zone in hopes of containing him?

Dave, Addicted to Quack: You just had to remind me of that game :c(. Oregon style hasn't changed a lot since then, just the names. Oregon tends to do better in a zone than a man, mainly due to their lack of size. K-State was killing the Ducks early, but they switched to a matchup zone and completely shut the Wildcats down. Expect the matchup zone against Utah as well.