Arizona showed last weekend that it knows how to learn from its mistakes, particularly against the team it made those mistakes against. The Wildcats avenged their home loss to Washington State and then dismantled a Washington team they had to rally from down 14 to beat in the previous matchup.
Now comes another chance at redemption against Oregon, the UA’s opponent on Thursday night. The Ducks (13-9, 7-4 Pac-12) handed Arizona (19-3, 8-3) its most lopsided defeat under second-year coach Tommy Lloyd, winning 87-68 in Eugene on Jan. 14.
How does Oregon look headed into this return game at McKale? For insight, we reached out to Carl Blackwell of SB Nation sister site Addicted to Quack. Here are his ferocious answers to our gentle questions:
AZ Desert Swarm: Injuries have been a big issue for Oregon all season, but when it played Arizona last month the Ducks seemed pretty healthy. Is that still the case, and how have things gone with more options?
Carl Blackwell: “Man, oh man, the injuries are but a component of this team. To be sure, the early season injuries affected this Ducks squad, but so did the lack of cohesiveness with this team. A few weeks ago, everyone in the nation wrote them off. Count me there. I think the Ducks are trying to adjust to new roles that they maybe did not envision in the beginning of the season, and all teams have to contend with this.”
Other than health, what have been the biggest contributing factors to Oregon’s up and down season?
“You know, If I had an answer for this I could probably embark on my career as a Ducks assistant coach. Whether any coach wants to admit it, injuries are a thing. They just are. I would say the same thing about any opposing team, because I know that it’s real. I don’t have to delve in coach-speak; therein lies my armor. Yours, too. I’m as frustrated a fan of the Ducks as your readers are frustrated with Arizona. I know the failings of AZ—how is that not frustrating? I totally get it.”
It’s very rare to see a 5th-year senior who has been at the same power-conference school his whole career, but Oregon has that in Will Richardson. How has this season gone for him?
“I get frustrated with Richardson. The past few games he has been nothing offensively. But is that solely our determining factor? Richardson is (in) there because he’s bought into the defensive plan and follows through. The intangibles make up for the lack of offense.”
Jermaine Cousinard went off against Arizona after having done very little before that. Who’s the random Oregon player most likely to have a huge game this time around?
“I would say that when Dana Altman decided to let performance dictate who would get minutes, Coursinard and Nate Bittle have risen to the occasion. Maybe it’s Altman doing his magic. He’s an HOF coach—but can he make this happen? I really don’t know. These two are really making is happen, and if Oregon wins at Arizona, they’ll be a huge factor.”
Altman recently joined the 150-win club in Pac-12 play, but right now it’s looking like Oregon will miss them NCAA Tournament for the third time (not including 2020) in the past six seasons. Are the fans starting to wonder if the program’s window for success has passed with Altman?
“Absolutely not. Altman is our guy, and I think he’s going to pull off another miracle that gets Oregon into the NCAA. Does that involve a win against Arizona? I have no idea. Altman is sitting on a very cold seat.”
Prediction time. Does Arizona get revenge for that beatdown in Eugene or does Oregon continue its ownership of the Wildcats dating back to the tail end of the Sean Miller era?
“Regardless of my prognostications, I really don’t think that this Ducks team is going to handle well a motivated Wildcats team. Arizona wants to show itself and I think that they will. I think that it’s Arizona 78-71. But if the Ducks claim the win, I think they could take the Pac-12....like so many Oregon teams, right?”