Matthew Knight Momentum
For the first time since 2007 the Oregon Ducks Men’s Basketball program is ranked in the AP Top 25. The Ducks come in at No. 21 in the latest poll, with Arizona (7) and UCLA (24) being the only other two Pac-12 schools in the rankings.
After a few years spent being the Pac-10/12 college basketball punching bag it looks as though the Ducks are back from the depths and ready to show the nation that the University of Oregon is much more than just a football school.
The Ducks jumped back into the rankings with impressive, yet close, victories over thea Sn-No. 4 Arizona (15-1) and Arizontate (14-3). Both games contested until the end, Oregon used impressive perimeter play from its young freshman duo of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson to give Oregon enough wiggle room come the final minute of both games (though the Wildcats and the Sun Devils each technically had a chance to tie the game at the final seconds — Arizona would have needed a four-point play; doable, but not probable).
The ranking justifies what many believe to be a dangerous Oregon team that should challenge for the Pac-12 crown. And, with the Ducks starting off strong with three victories in three games in conference, combined with their 14-2 overall record, Oregon looks the part of an NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament team (though there is still around half their regular season games to play).
If you didn’t get a chance to catch either of the thrillers from Oregon’s week that was, here is a brief recap to get you up to speed.
Despite falling behind 11-0 very early in the contest, the Ducks never looked rattled as they kept within reach of the Wildcats, eventually surpassing and overtaking one of the three remaining undefeated teams.
After establishing their lead the Ducks would continue to hold a 10- to 11-point lead over Arizona until the last four minutes, when things got a little hairy for an Oregon team that was looking for a big victory to solidify themselves as Pac-12 contenders. The Ducks seemed to almost play as if they had already won the game when the clocked reached four minutes to go. Players were sloppy, passes not executed with crispness, and fans soon began to have the fear in the back of their mind that the big upset would dwindle away.
The Wildcats pulled within three points of Oregon when Nick Johnson hit a huge three-pointer to make it 69-66 with just under a minute to go. After a missed three by Oregon, Arizona looked as though it would have the chance at the tie until Johnathan Loyd managed a steal and converted one of two free throws to extend Oregon’s lead to four while ensuring a decisive victory at home.
Students flooded the court, security guards gave up, and madness returned to Oregon basketball.
As thrilling as Oregon’s victory over the Wildcats was, Sunday night’s showdown against the Sun Devils proved a little more hairy. Trading blows throughout the entire game, both teams had a tough time establishing any separation. It would be this back-and-forth tradeoff that would result in the Ducks leading Arizona State by just one point with less than a minute to play.
After once again battling it out through the first thirty seconds of the last minute, Oregon established a five-point lead after two free throws by Carlos Emory. The Sun Devils would not give up, however, as they then hit a three with 7 second left. E.J. Singler would then get to the line and convert his first shot, extending Oregon’s lead to three. He would miss his second attempt, Oregon’s first miss of the night from the line, and give the Sun Devils one last shot.
Fortunately for Oregon and their fans, Carrick Felix missed the shot and gave the Ducks a nail-biting 68-65 victory.
The Ducks will hit the road this weekend when they travel to USC on Thursday and then take on No. 24 UCLA on a Saturday game that is set to be aired on CBS. These games will kick off the meat of Oregon’s conference schedule, with 8 of the 15 remaining games to be played on the road.
Oregon currently sits a half-game behind UCLA in the Pac-12 standings, tied with the Washington Huskies for second in the conference. Victories over UCLA and USC would go a long way to helping the Ducks establish a decent hold on either the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd seed come the Pac-12 Tournament.
Despite wins in their first three conference games and a 14-2 record, Oregon remains unranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll.