The Ducks basketball team was not expected to do much in the Pac-12 against powerhouses such as UCLA, Arizona and Utah, but the young team has managed to keep itself in the hunt for a spot in the NCAA tournament. Ranking 5th in the Pac-12, only two games behind the leaders, No. 6 Arizona and No. 11 Utah, the Ducks have a chance to prove they deserve a spot in the tournament with a game against the Wildcats tomorrow night.
Following wins over USC and UCLA last week, the Ducks have moved up to No. 77 in the ratings percentage index (RPI) and have an opportunity to continue surging forward. The Ducks are 3-5 against teams ranked in the Top 75 of RPI, and seven of their next 11 games are against opponents in the Top 100 — a challenge that, if met successfully, will vault Oregon into the national conversation. Should the players on offense continue to work together the way they did against UCLA, they will make a statement about how talented this young team is and what it’s capable of.
Of the 20 games so far, only five teams Oregon has faced have an RPI under 150, lending strength of schedule to the impressive performances by Joseph Young (second in the Pac-12 in scoring with 19.3 points per game) and Jordan Bell (who has blocked more shots by himself this year than 173 other teams in the NCAA).
The culmination of the season will be a challenge as the Ducks are faced with seven games on the road as opposed to only four at Matthew Knight Arena where they have lost only to Arizona and Ole Miss; however, adversity should only fuel the fire lit by Dana Altman, who is three wins away from leading Oregon to its best-ever five-year victory total. The Ducks might have been projected to finish in the bottom half of the Pac-12, but they’re giving everyone many reasons to take them seriously as championship contenders.
Top Photo by Kevin Cline