Men’s basketball is off to a great start — a win on the road over the President’s team, an upset of # 4 Arizona, and taking up-and-coming Arizona State and sending them down-and-back to wherever it is Sun Devils come from. BUT…
There’s a whole lot of season left. The Pac-12 isn’t won with one victory over a top 5-ranked team in just the second conference game of the year, but with solid, consistent play over the course of more than two months. This week doesn’t get much easier as the Ducks head down to Southern California to take on the LA schools that we love to hate.
UCLA and USC are teams going in opposite directions. With ten straight wins, including victories over Texas and Missouri, UCLA is back in the AP Top 25 for the first time since losing to Cal Poly at home in November. USC, on the other hand, is off to a terrible 7-11 start — and they have a brand new head coach on their bench.
While the USC game might have looked like a relatively easy win based on their play this season, they are fighting to find their identity and showed serious heart in a road win against Utah this past weekend. We saw last night how a “bad” PAC-12 team can still nearly come away with a victory. Were the Ducks looking ahead to the UCLA matchup? They almost tallied a loss to a team playing with nothing to lose. While UCLA will present the greater physical challenge, perhaps USC tested their mental toughness. The run through the PAC-12 schedule is often about mental toughness. The Ducks passed their first exam – barely.
Great teams need both the physical and the mental stamina necessary to prevail in the PAC-12 and go into the NCAA tournament. Can the Ducks be one of those great teams? Predicted to finish anywhere from 5th to 8th in the Pac-12, the Ducks are well on their way to proving the voters wrong. There would be no better way to shut up the critics than by taking care of business this weekend in LA. The next step toward that goal lies ahead tomorrow in Pauly Pavilion.