Midwest Semifinal Preview
by Greg Bacani
Tonight, Texas looks to prolong the Big 12’s dominance
over the Pac-10 as they look to dispatch Oregon, the
last remaining Pac-10 representative in tonight’s
first Midwest Regional Semifinal.
The Longhorns and the Ducks feature two of the premier
“focal” point guards in the country: Texas’ freshman
phenom T.J. Ford and Oregon’s super sophomore Luke
“You’re looking at two guys that really enjoy passing
the basketball. I think you’re looking at two guys
that enjoy watching their teammates do what they do
well. And obviously I think that you’re talking about
two players that are extremely unselfish in terms of
not worrying about their numbers. They’re both about
winning,” said Texas head coach Rick Barnes.
How much of an impact has Ford had on the Longhorns
this year? Last year, Texas’ leading assist man was
Darren Kelly, who finished with 76. Ford dropped 14
dimes in his first college GAME, against Arizona no
less, and has 268 overall.
Ridnour has been the Ducks’ hardwood version of Joey
Hamilton this year and is the trigger man for Ernie
Kent’s Quack Attack. Considered a better shooter than
Ford, Ridnour is shooting just under 45% from behind
the arc, and is coming off a career-high 28 points
against Wake Forest last Saturday.
The game is shaping up to be a close contest by virtue
of the fact that both Ridnour and Ford have the
ability to dictate pace and know how to effectively
get their respective teams into their sets.
Aside from Ford and Ridnour here are three major keys
for tonight’s game:
1) Oregon will have to get more out of their bench (2
points vs. Wake Forest). Senior guard Anthony Lever
and sophomore guard James Davis, whom Oregon head
coach Ernie Kent regards as the Ducks’ most potent
3-point threats need to step up.
2) The Longhorns will have to take better care of the
ball (13 turnovers against BC in the first round, 20
turnovers against Mississippi State) in order to
insure that the high-flying Ducks don’t ignite their
offense with east baskets.
3)Ultimately, this game may come down to the wire. And
in that scenario, free throw shooting will become a
factor. And as Duke’s Jason Williams can attest to,
there isn’t anything “free” about them in March.
Both teams have excelled in this crucial area so far in
the tournament. But Oregon holds a distinct advantage,
having gone to the charity stripe 64 times and
converting on 49 (76.6%), while their opponents have
managed just 30 attempts, converting on 20 (66.7%).
Texas is 30-38 from the foul line, while their
opponents have shot 18-25 from the line.
If Texas can hang with the Ducks and keep Frederick
Jones and Luke Jackson from getting loose in
transition, the Longhorns can pull off the upset. Look
for Texas’ junior forward Deginald Erskin to have an
impact. He’s been on fire of late averaging 14.5
points on 27-31 (87%).