The No. 24 Arizona Wildcats (19-7, 9-4 Pac-12) can take a big step toward winning the conference title when they host the No. 14 Oregon Ducks (20-7, 9-5) on Saturday night at McKale Center.
Arizona has won three in a row but lost in overtime at Oregon on Jan. 9, while the Ducks are coming off a loss at ASU that knocked them out of a tie for first place in the loss column.
Tip off is set for 7 p.m. MT with the game being shown on ESPN.
Below are our staff predictions:
Brian J. Pedersen — Arizona wins 69-68
Remember when Arizona looked really bad when not playing at home earlier this season? That’s been Oregon for almost the entirety of Pac-12 play, going 3-5 on the road with at least one loss on every trip. That includes at ASU on Thursday night, a game in which star Payton Pritchard needed 15 shots to score 18 points. He shoots 37.3 percent in Oregon’s losses compared to 50.2 percent in its victories, so keeping him from going off will be huge. So, too, will be getting to the line.
The Ducks yield 18.9 foul shots per game in conference play, yet Arizona only took 14 in an overtime loss in January. The Wildcats are averaging 27.2 free throw attempts in their last five games and must keep up that aggression in what will be a grind-it-out affair with so much on the line.
Ryan Kelapire — Oregon wins 71-67
Oregon played like trash at ASU, which means (I think) they will be highly focused in McKale, where they have had a good amount of success lately, winning two of their last three.
The faces on both sides have changed quite a bit since Oregon’s last game in Tucson, but Payton Pritchard is a constant and the kind of player who can lead his teammates to a big win in what should be a hostile environment.
Turnovers and 3-point shooting will be the difference. As we know, the Wildcats had been struggling to shoot 3s before breaking out vs. Oregon State on Thursday. The Ducks are generally a very good 3-point shooting team, making 38.1 percent as a team, but that number drops to 33 percent on the road.
The X-factors for Arizona will be Dylan Smith and/or Max Hazzard. If one or both can hit just even a couple 3-pointers, the Wildcats should be in a good shape.
If the freshmen are left to carry the entire offense, things will get dicey in a game that will come down to a few possessions.
Christian Mortensen — Arizona wins 76-71
Oregon normally plays good at McKale, which is somewhat concerning to me, but I really think the Cats have turned a corner with their last three wins. Meaning, that I think they will have enough to grab a massive, massive win over the Ducks on Saturday night.
The Wildcats don’t really have a marquee victory this year (sorry Colorado and ASU fans) and a dub over Oregon to keep pace at the top of the Pac-12 would no doubt turn heads around the country just on name alone. Even if the Ducks are coming off a disappointing loss on Thursday.
Matthew Rein — Arizona wins 72-71
Arizona very nearly knocked off Oregon in Eugene before they lost 74 to 73 in OT. I think the Cats will find a win to win tonight. However, Oregon will be hungry coming off a disappointing road loss to ASU where Payton Pritchard struggled throughout the night. The Ducks will be ready to play and Dana Altman will have his team fired up.
With that being said, Arizona’s momentum will carry over from their win against Oregon State and if they shoot as well from three as they did on Thursday, they’ll win this game.
Adam Green — Oregon wins 74-67
It’s hard not to feel good about Arizona after what happened Thursday, with the complete demolition of Oregon State. While the Beavers are not a great team, the Wildcats showed maturity in cruising to a win.
They also showed good defense and a shooting touch that has been lacking of late.
However, I’d feel even better about this game had Oregon beaten Arizona State. The Ducks did not, and now come into this game with even more desperation than they otherwise would have.
Sean Miller said this is like a March Madness game, and he’s right. The question is, is his team ready for it? The Cats have struggled in emotional games, and it’s a time like this where you wonder how their youth will fare.
It would not shock me if Oregon’s N’Faly Dante suited up and played because Arizona. If he doesn’t, I like the Wildcats’ chances a bit more.
As it stands, I’m going to say this one is similar to the Gonzaga effort in which the Wildcats don’t necessarily play poorly, but just don’t have enough in the end.