Both the Oregon Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams had big weekends, as the Lady Ducks won the Women’s Pac-12 Tournament, and the men clinched the regular season title. Oregon becomes the first Pac-12 school to have a three-peat: football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball all won Pac-12 regular season championships.
The women became champions in Las Vegas in typical fashion. Despite slow starts in all three games, and trailing after the first quarter in two of them, the Ducks won all three games by double digits, with the games never being in doubt in the second half.
One surprising development was the three point shooting of Minyon Moore in the championship game. Making four three pointers on her way to a season high 21 points, Moore proved that she can be a threat on the offensive end. If she is able to continue shooting the ball in that way, the Ducks will continue to be even more dangerous.
These Ducks are clicking on all cylinders right now, and they show no signs of slowing down. There seems to be a different feel this season compared to last, as Kelly Graves even said they weren’t playing their best basketball going into the NCAA Tournament last year. However, winners of 19 in a row, the Ducks are more than ready this season.
The Lady Ducks now must wait nearly two weeks before starting their journey through the Tournament. With the first two rounds being played in Eugene, and the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight being played in Portland, the Ducks once again have an extremely favorable path to the Final Four.
The key now for this team is to stay sharp during this extended break. That should not be a problem for a veteran team with unfinished business. These ladies will be ready to play, knowing they are only six victories away from the first National Championship in program history.
Regular Season Champs
The Oregon women aren’t the only team playing their best basketball when it matters most. The men are also winners of four straight, with all the momentum in the world heading into the Pac-12 Tournament.
Finishing in first place, the Ducks were awarded a first round bye, and will play the winner of Utah and Oregon State. The potential showdown with Oregon State could prove to be a scary one for the Ducks despite their 15 point victory just two weeks ago.
Oregon also celebrated three seniors this past weekend, who played their final games at Matthew Knight Arena. Anthony Mathis, Shakur Juiston and Payton Pritchard have all had different paths to this point in their careers, and all three might be playing their best basketball of the season just at the right time.
Mathis and Juiston have both been excelling in their roles with this Oregon team over the past four games. As two grad transfer seniors who came to Oregon to play in the NCAA Tournament, now is their time to continue to be major contributors for this team.
Mathis has returned to his early season form, and has been shooting a ridiculous 63% from three. With Chris Duarte being out with an injury at least through the Pac-12 Tournament, Mathis’ three point shooting is a huge key to the Ducks’ success. Every time he catches the ball he needs to be aggressive in looking for his shot and spacing the floor for his teammates.
Meanwhile, Juiston has looked much more comfortable and consistent on the offensive end. He has been more decisive and aggressive on that side of the ball, forcing teams to respect and game plan for him. He has been Oregon’s most consistent low post defender, and will need to continue as the Ducks move through the end of the season.
Pritchard Makes His Mark
Pritchard has cemented himself as one of the all-time Oregon greats with his unmatched competitiveness and hard work. He will end his career playing the most games and minutes, while also winning the most games in program history. He is also the first player in Pac-12 history to have 1,500 points, 600 assists and 500 rebounds in a career.
He concluded his home career on a high note, finishing with 29 points, six rebounds and five assists. He has arguably been playing the best basketball of his career during the Ducks latest four game winning streak. The biggest difference has been in his three point shooting, as he is making over 50% of shots beyond the arc, many from well behind the three point line.
This team begins and ends with Pritchard, and even as other players have begun to step up, if the Ducks want to make another postseason run, Pritchard will need to be the one to lead them. This group seems to be hitting its stride at the right time, and it is no coincidence Pritchard is a big reason for that.
The Ducks enter the Pac-12 Tournament looking to win it for the second straight season, while also solidifying themselves as a top four seed in the NCAA Tournament. If the Ducks continue their play from the past two weeks, there is no reason this team can’t make another postseason run. If the match ups fall their way, we could be looking at potentially their second Final Four in four years.
Coach Alex Nordstrand
Eugene, OregonTop Photo from Twitter
Chris Brouilette, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a current student at the University of Oregon from Sterling, Illinois.
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