Somehow, someway, Oregon is once again No. 1 out west.
In the absence of starting point guard Dominic Artis, the Ducks went through a tumultuous two-week span which included three consecutive losses to conference opponents. Oregon began the span ranked No. 10 in the country, and nearly fell out of the AP Top 25 by its conclusion. Arizona and UCLA were then able to move into a three-way tie for first place in the conference.
Even without Artis, however, Oregon (20-5, 9-3 PAC-12) was able to capture a much needed win against northwest foe Washington on the road. Johnathon Loyd, who has struggled replacing Artis at the point guard position, showed substantial improvement for the Ducks against Washington. Loyd finished with 11 points on 4 for 7 shooting with only two turnovers.
Oregon also received valuable production from top recruit Damyean Dotson, even though the freshman guard has seen limited playing time this season.
One of the most important tasks for the Ducks was to find a way to survive without Artis. Though the freshman is expected to return anytime, the performances by Loyd and Dotson give Oregon head coach Dana Altman a formidable fall back plan.
The Ducks are now in the midst of a two-game winning streak, with a surefire road win against Washington and a home battle versus Cal on the horizon. Oregon now has a temporary .5 game lead over both No. 9 Arizona and UCLA in the conference, with Arizona State two game behind after their loss to a dismal Utah team.
Now that the Ducks have proven they can win without Artis, who’s to stop them in the PAC-12?
Somehow, someway, the Ducks might just win the PAC-12 conference after all.