There isn’t a more appropriate way to welcome the madness we all adore than an eventful weekend compiled of upsets. It is a sign that March has arrived, and we’re now just two weeks away from Selection Sunday.
The Oregon Ducks have continued to strengthen their tournament resume by extending their win streak to five games, highlighted by a much-needed quality win on the road at UCLA.
With the streak, they have wiggled their way into a few bracket projections, but because of a disheartening mid-season slump, many experts still have the Ducks floating among the field of bubble teams. A pair of RPI top-50 teams waits in the final set of regular season games and there is still the conference tournament left to play.
Will this season be remembered as Oregon’s mid-season downfall after replicating the school’s best start to a season? Or will it be a string of late season heroics? Lets take a look at Oregon’s final set of games, and what they will need to do to survive on the Road to the Big Dance.
First things first: Oregon must win at least one of their two remaining regular season games. If they were to lose both, their tournament hopes would fall like the Spurs, after they fell victim to Ray Allen’s cold-blooded, game-winning three-pointer in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
The Ducks will try to replace some bitter memories of their trip to the desert earlier in the year. Oregon lost by a combined four points in their games with Arizona (27-2, 14-2 Pac-12) and Arizona State (21-8, 10-6 Pac-12) – hopefully a trip Deep into the Woods of Matt Court will help rattle two of the conference’s top squads.
The home stand begins with the Sun Devils, who are coming off comfortable victories over Stanford and California at home.
The Devils have been phenomenal at home this year but they have obvious struggles on the road, having gone 2-5 away from their home court so far this season.
Following that will be a rematch against one of the nation’s best in No. 3 Arizona. The Wildcats have been dominant lately, winning by double digits in their last three outings and have won four straight since the heartbreaking fall in double overtime against rival ASU on Valentine’s Day.
Oregon has already proven they can compete with these teams, but they must avoid a characteristic late-game collapse.
The Ducks have climbed to No. 33 in the RPI, and are No. 48 in SOS. The NCAA Selection Committee also lists them as a No. 12 seed in ESPN’s Nitty Gritty Report, which is a weekly bracket seeding based off comparative scores from around the nation.
CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm has Oregon earning a No. 10 seed in his latest bracket projection but also still considers them on the bubble. “That’s the first win over a sure tournament team for the Ducks, so they filled a big hole in their profile,” Palm wrote. “Of course, it took the Bruins’ top two guys being suspended and double OT, but it looks like a line drive in the box score.”
At least one more quality win would spur optimism heading into the Pac-12 tournament and add an impressive win to a resume signaling for improvement; Oregon has two top-50 victories over UCLA and BYU, and a 8-7 record against the top 100.
Compared to other teams floating on the bubble, Assistant Athletic Director Andy McNamara tweeted a photo last week that shows where Oregon lies among the field:
— Andy McNamara (@McNamaraUO) February 28, 2014
From here, Oregon controls their own destiny.
Of course, the seeding and selection is out of their hands, but if they put compelling results in front of the committee, there is no question the Ducks will be considered for The Dance come March 16.
If they do lose one of the final two games, an absolute win-out in the conference tournament may be the only entryway for Oregon.
— The game against Arizona State will be aired on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m.
Top Photo Steve Francis