2 p.m. MST
Oregon may have found something in visiting the Arizona schools four weeks ago. The Ducks lost by two points to each of Arizona and ASU, and since, they've knocked off six straight teams. Suddenly, Dana Altman's team finds itself as a potential fifth Pac-12 team to make the big dance having leapt past the Bay Area schools, who are tumbling to end the regular season.
UCLA, ASU and perhaps Colorado appear as locks, but the Ducks could join them with a single win in their regular season finale against No. 3 Arizona.
The vision for Dana Altman's club is coming together. While so much has revolved around the offense, the defense has made the necessary steps late in games to sneak out enough victories. Even if the Ducks needed double-overtime to survive UCLA without its two best players, Altman can live with the floundering that made it a longer game than necessary.
Senior forward Mike Moser has been on a tear, and UA freshman Aaron Gordon will need another strong performance against the same player who scored four points and went 2-for-9 against Arizona back on Feb. 6.
Since then, Moser has averaged 17.7 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. He's nabbed 20 and 17 rebounds in two of the last three games.
Arizona's goal is simple. Continue building a cohesion that's allowed for different players to take over at different times within a single game. On Wednesday, it was Gabe York for a spurt, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson later and a game-long dose of Nick Johnson pushing the Wildcats past a gritty OSU squad.
The Ducks will give up size, but they won't give an inch to Arizona in terms of motivation. At this point, that could be the toughest part for Miller's club.
What we're looking for
- Kaleb Tarczewski needs touches in the trees (literally, the court has trees on it), and early. That's always important, but best to get the Ducks worrying about him so the shooters can get open looks and then find confidence out of the gates. It's bound to be rowdy in Matthew Knight Arena, so getting the offense flowing in the halfcourt is important. The Wildcats would probably be alright running against Oregon, but that should be done more selectively than, say, against a team like UCLA. The Ducks have some straight gunners across the roster that could light it up in transition.
- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson didn't make much of an impact until the closing moments on Wednesday. What he did of course was the biggest difference, but showing that for longer stretches -- or at least more of them -- could put Arizona in a position to lead earlier on. The good news is that Hollis-Jefferson, Gordon and Johnson can make defensive impacts late, and that's where UA can separate from Oregon if this is a close one. We expect that it might come down to the final minutes, after all.
Stat it up
Value Add Basketball ranks NCAA players in terms of how much their presence affects the total point spread. There are quite a few familiar Pac-12 names on the list, which is currently led by Utah's Delon Wright.
Oregon's Joseph Young comes in 17th on the list with a value add of 6.24. And most of that comes on the offensive end, where he ranks sixth among NCAA players with a 6.44 value add, meaning he loses some of his total on the defensive end. By comparison, Arizona's Nick Johnson ranks 24th overall with 5.95 value add. He earns his total with a 3.89 offensive value add and a -1.06 defensive value add.
"Arizona's done so much for our league this year. It brings a lot of media attention and national attention to our league. Perception is reality." -- Oregon coach Dana Altman