With just one month away from Selection Sunday on March 16, experts around the country are buzzing with predictions over which 68 teams will fill the brackets for the NCAA tournament. The Oregon Ducks (16-8, 4-8 Pac-12) have just six games and a conference tournament to boost their computer ranking in order to gain an at-large bid to participate in the madness.
A 10-point victory over Oregon State (13-11, 5-7 Pac-12) on Sunday was just the start they needed heading down the final stretch.
After consecutive two-point losses in Arizona, the Ducks were clutch in the final minutes of the game to defeat the Beavers, 93-82. Oregon’s 93 is the most points scored against Oregon State since Feb. 11, 1995, and the first time Oregon has surpassed the 93-point mark since their 100-96 overtime thriller over BYU in pre-conference play.
The victory also marks the 89th victory for UO senior Johnathan Loyd, tying the school record set by E.J. Singler.
What had been troubling the Ducks in their recent losses was the inability to finish close games. Against No. 4 Arizona (23-2, 10-2 Pac-12), Oregon led the Wildcats by five with 3:57 left to play, but they let the lead fall from their grasp due to a couple of key turnovers and missed free throws.
Dana Altman’s squad filled those gaps against the Beavers. The Ducks went 14-for-16 from the charity stripe in the final five minutes and was successful in keeping Oregon State off the offensive glass.
The victory not only avenged an exasperating loss to the Beavers earlier in the year, but it provides momentum for the Ducks are they look to end the season on a strong note.
Much of what the selection committee considers when picking the field is how the teams ended the season. Oregon was far more impressive at the beginning of the year than they are now and besides, their 12-0 record over non-conference opponents is not that impressive, ranking just 70th in the nation, according to ESPN.com
Big opportunities were missed with the losses to No. 23 UCLA and the Arizona teams. However, the Ducks get a chance to redeem themselves with a rematch against each team in the final six games.
Washington (14-12, 6-7 Pac-12), Arizona State (19-6, 8-4 Pac-12), Arizona and UCLA all rank in the RPI Top 100, and wins against them would provide a much needed boost in the rankings.
If they lose half of these games, Oregon must rely on a stunning Pac-12 tournament to gain a bid to the Big Dance. As of now, many experts have the Ducks on the bubble as one of the last four teams out.
This results from the deep Pac-12 conference, which is projected to send a total of six teams to the tournament; Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, Colorado, California and Stanford, all of whom claim victories over Oregon, are the six teams listed.
The road will continue with two more games at home over Washington and Washington State before their trip down to Los Angeles. The Huskies are just 1-4 in their last five games and are coming off a loss to Cal. Washington will be hungry for a win, but lets hope the momentum gained from the Civil War game this past weekend will translate to a much-needed win streak.
Top Photo by Don Olson