BYU Gears Up For NBA Stage Against No. 12 Oregon Ducks

Nov 16, 2021, 1:23 AM | Updated: 1:25 am
Oregon Ducks - Will Richardson...
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 22: Will Richardson #0 of the Oregon Ducks handles the ball in the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 22, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

PROVO, UtahΒ – Today’s BYU/Oregon game is just the latest example of a difficult challenge on the Cougars’ non-conference schedule.

BYU head coach Mark Pope never has minced words about the challenges of the schedule he lined up for his squad that has aspirations of making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

On numerous occasions since the non-conference schedule was released in September, the third-year head coach said he’s going to get fired for lining up this rugged stretch of games.

BYU passed the first two difficult tests against NCAA teams in Cleveland State and San Diego State. Now the third, and quite possibly, the toughest test of the non-conference awaits.

BYU (2-0) will take on the No. 12 Oregon Ducks (2-0) at the Moda Center, home of the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers as part of the Phil Knight Invitational.

“We did this for a purpose. There’s a reason behind this schedule. The reason was that I’m either going to get fired, or these guys are going to play great, and I’m going to keep my job for another day. And they’re playing great, so I’ll keep my job for another day, I think, we’ll see. Oregon is going to be a massive challenge; we appreciate that for sure,” said BYU coach Mark Pope on Friday after SDSU.

This is the first time since the 1994-95 season that BYU has opened with three opponents in the NCAA Tournament the previous year. BYU started that season 2-0 before falling to Minnesota in the Championship Round of the Great Alaska Shootout.

BYU and Oregon last met in 2014 during the NCAA Tournament. A game that BYU was never competitive in, falling to the Ducks 87-68. It was the second meeting against Oregon that season.

BYU vs. No. 12 Oregon

Tip: 8 p.m. (MT)

Location: Moda Center, Portland, Oregon


Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM – Pregame begins at 7 p.m.)

Series: Oregon leads 14-8

Last meeting: Oregon 87, BYU 68; First Round of 2014 NCAA Tournament in Milwaukee

Will BYU find some success behind the three-point line?

BYU is currently 314th nationally in three-point field-goal percentage through the first two games of the season. The Cougars are shooting 24.3% from beyond the arc.

β€œI love the fact that we can be 4-of-18 from the three-point line, with a bunch of threes that we like, and still beat an unbelievably talented, long, athletic, top-30 team,” said Pope after the San Diego State win.

The guy that could probably pull BYU out of this shooting rut from deep is senior guard Alex Barcello. Barcello is shooting 57% from three through the first two games, but he’s only attempted seven three-point attempts. After two victories, he’s only had 16 field goal attempts total. Pope would have no problems with seeing Barcello get a little more aggressive on his shot attempts.

BYU’s offense is still a work in progress and still has plenty of room to grow, but defensively the Cougars appear to be ahead of schedule after losing WCC Defensive Player of the Year Matt Haarms. Through two games, BYU is allowing only 59.5 points per game.

BYU is 44th in the KenPom Adjusted Efficiency metric on the defensive end. A big reason for that is Fousseyni Traore off of the bench.

Traore is averaging eight rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game through the first two contests. But that was all in the cozy confines of the Marriott Center. Will that high level of play from Traore and the BYU defense continue in a glorified home game for the nationally-ranked Ducks?

What to know about Oregon

Oregon advanced to the Sweet 16 last season before falling to Pac-12 rival USC in the second weekend. The Ducks have defeated Texas Southern and SMU both at home so far this season.

Dana Altman is known for solving his fair share of Rubik’s Cubes had to replace three starters from last year’s Sweet 16 squad in NBA draft pick Chris Duarte, L.J. Figueroa, and Eugene Omoruyi. However, the Ducks did return point guard Will Richardson, who makes the Ducks go. He can heat up and be one of the top three-point shooters in the Pac-12. Richardson is averaging 19 points per game this season.

Oklahoma transfer De’Vion Harmon leads the Ducks in minutes per game through the first two games. He’s averaging 32.5 minutes per night and has been the immediate impact player he was expected to be for the Ducks once he pulled his name out of the NBA draft process. Harmon was targeted by BYU out of the Transfer Portal.

Off the bench JUCO transfer, Rivaldo Soares and 6-foot-11 big man Franck Kepnang give the Ducks two starter quality players to enter the game at a moment’s notice.

There is one connection to the state of Utah on Oregon’s roster in 7-footer Isaac Johnson. Johnson, a native of American Fork, served a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the past two years. He is the younger brother to BYU guard Spencer Johnson. Isaac played at American Fork High alongside BYU guard Trey Stewart, who also returned home from a mission this year.

The Ducks are currently shooting 45.7% from the field, 37.5% from three, and have a plus-seven edge in the turnover margin this season.

Probable Starters

BYU (2-0)

G – Alex Barcello, 6-2, 192, Sr.

G – Te’Jon Lucas, 6-1, 187, Sr.

F – Gideon George, 6-6, 210, Sr.

F – Caleb Lohner, 6-8, 235, Soph.

C – Gavin Baxter, 6-9, 228, Sr.

Oregon (2-0)

G – Will Richardson, 6-5, 180, Sr.

G – De’Vion Harmon, 6-2, 200, Jr.

G – Jacob Young, 6-3, 190, Sr.

F – Quincy Guerrier, 6-8, 220, Jr.

F – Eric Williams Jr., 6-7, 195, Sr.

BYU vs. Oregon Prediction

BYU is 2-5 against ranked teams under Mark Pope since 2019. The two wins were against Gonzaga at home in Pope’s first season and a road victory in the second year at San Diego State. So now is it time for a neutral-site Top 25 win to be added to the record books?

A win for BYU would likely catapult the Cougars into the AP Top 25 next week as they are currently receiving votes (No. 29).

This should be a competitive game throughout, but Oregon’s athleticism will pose a lot of challenges. Also, this is the first time this season that BYU doesn’t have the clear-cut edge on the guard line. Seniors Alex Barcello and Te’Jon Lucas will need to come up big for BYU to pull off this upset.

Oregon has too much proven depth and length for BYU to be able to take down the Ducks. Therefore, I’ll call for a close game that sees the Ducks pull out the victory.

Oregon 72, BYU 69

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter:Β @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU Gears Up For NBA Stage Against No. 12 Oregon Ducks