While Arizona has all but locked up the No. 1 seed in the PAC-12 Conference tournament with their win over Stanford, the No. 19 Oregon Ducks are still fighting to squander any momentum they once had earlier in the season. The Wildcats now have a half-game lead in the standings over Oregon, and don’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.
It seems odd to consider Oregon’s matchup tonight with Colorado to be a must win, but picture this: A loss to the Buffaloes would separate the Ducks (18-4, 7-2 PAC-12) from Arizona by a full game, and pull Arizona State within one game of the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament.
Colorado has solidified their position as the most disappointing team in the PAC-12 Conference this season, after winning the conference tournament in 2012. If Oregon does in fact prevail over the Buffalos, all hope of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament would be lost for Colorado.
Oregon point guard Dominic Artis will most likely sit out yet another game, and backup Johnathon Loyd is questionable with a thumb injury. More questions in the backcourt will not help improve the Ducks’ PAC-12 worst turnover average of 16.1 per game. In the three-game stretch without Artis in the rotation, Loyd committed 12 tournaments, and a career high six in their loss against Cal. Colorado possesses the best rebounder in the nation in Andre Roberson, making interior toughness the key for an Oregon victory in Eugene, OR.
After two-straight conference losses, the Ducks will now have to put a 20-game home winning streak on the line against Colorado. Remember, the Buffaloes pushed then No. 3 ranked Arizona to overtime in a road loss on Jan. 3. Colorado definitely possesses the talent to upset Oregon, but has lost 36 of their last 37 road games against ranked opponents.
Of course it feels odd condemning a team that was once 7-0 in PAC-12 conference play, but Oregon has shown no signs of improvement of late. With a strong win against the Buffaloes, the Ducks will return confidence to a distressed roster, and a worried fan base.
Follow John Engel on Twitter: @engelsportsguy