Just so nobody is misunderstood —
The Oregon Ducks’ roller-coaster is still up and running as we head into the final stretch of the regular season. The ride erupted off the start as Oregon snatched every victory in the season’s first 13 games, before running into the rugged play of the Pac-12, where it dropped eight of its next 10.
The downfall turned what seemed to be an exhilarating run toward a conference championship, into an ongoing struggle to be a bubble team for the NCAA tournament.
Well, the road has diverged once again and the team has embarked for the Madness of March, after the Ducks’ three-game winning streak, courtesy Sunday’s 67-53 win over Washington State.
After the victory, Oregon is now 6-8 in the Pac-12 and 18-8 overall as they sit 9th in the conference standings. With just four games remaining, the Ducks have no chance at catching No. 3 Arizona (25-2, 12-2 Pac-12) in the standings, but a spot in the tournament is not yet out of the question.
However, three of the final four games are against teams inside the RPI Top-50, but acquiring quality wins are a must at this point.
On Monday, CBS Sports analyst Jerry Palm made an appearance on the “Duck Insider” radio show and said Oregon’s tournament hopes would benefit from a quality win in the next two weeks. In his projected tournament bracket released Sunday, Palm has Oregon as one of the seven Pac-12 teams in the field with a No. 11 seed.
The Ducks move up to No. 40 in the RPI rankings and No. 20 in the BPI, according to ESPN. They also have a national strength of schedule of 46. These are sufficient rankings for teams in tournament consideration.
With their best win being over Brigham Young at home back in December, a win this Thursday on the road at UCLA (21-6, 10-4 Pac-12), ranked No. 14 in the RPI, would stand out to the selection committee. The Bruins have been in-and-out of the Top 25 rankings this season, but their play has solidified themselves as the second-best team in the Pac, and a definite lock for a tournament seed.
After the trip to Los Angeles, Oregon will return home to finish off the season against Arizona and Arizona State. The Ducks left the desert with a bitter taste in their mouth after losing by a combined four points to the Wildcats and Sun Devils. Although they missed a big opportunity, their chance at redemption couldn’t have come at a better time.
If they can avoid an upset to USC this weekend and pull out one or two victories in the final regular season games, Oregon will be close to jumping back into the tournament field. After that, depending on the results, they will need to play deep into or perhaps even outright win the season-ending Pac-12 Tournament.
Coach Dana Altman assessed the team’s tournament hopes after the team’s victory on Sunday, “We played our way out of it,” said Altman, referencing the mid-season slip. “Now we’ve played our way back in it and we’ve got a great opportunity.”
Top Photo by Steve Francis