Not too many teams can say they have beaten the Arizona Wildcats this season, but after a stellar upset, the Oregon Ducks are now one of those few teams. Going into the final regular season matchup, the Ducks had won six straight games, and were closing in on punching themselves a ticket to the NCAA tournament. But after extending that streak to seven with a win over the number three ranked Wildcats, the chances are pretty secure regardless of the Pac 12 tournament results.
It seems that after a season full of unpredictability, the Oregon basketball team may have finally found their true comfort zone. Fortunately for them, it is coming at a perfect time. As most teams know, it’s the momentum going into March that really helps teams go far into the NCAA tournament. Last year, the Ducks were a product of this theory as they went on to win the Pac 12 tournament, and then make it to the Sweet Sixteen before losing to the eventual National champions, the Louisville Cardinals.
Winning against a team like Arizona may have just been that spark that keeps them rolling along into the March Madness. Leading the way for the Ducks this past Saturday was Detroit transfer Jason Calliste. Finishing with 18 points, it was Calliste that helped ignite the Ducks’ second half surge.
After trailing for most of the game and finding it hard to catch up with the Wildcats, Calliste caught fire from behind the 3-point line. Senior Johnathan Loyd added 16 points in what was his final game at Matthew Knight Arena. Loyd, as most know, holds the record for being the winningest player in school history and was able to add one more on his senior night. Freshman star Aaron Gordon led the Wildcats with 21 points and 8 rebounds.
After losing a eight of their previous ten, the Ducks finished two games above even at 10-8 in Pac-12 play. Although they are tied with the same conference record as four other Pac 12 teams, the Ducks have been placed at the bottom of that list and are going into the Pac 12 tournament as the 7th seed. Coincidentally, they will be facing their in-state rival, Oregon State. For the Ducks, it will be important that they don’t underestimate the game and go in to it as if they’re still a bubble team. Another loss to the Beavers would not go down well in any circumstance.
However, once again like last year, I believe this tournament is up for grabs. Although Arizona is obviously the favorite considerably, the Ducks and a few of those other 10-8 teams have quite enough talent to make each game a fight until the clock shows zero.