In the world of sports, no brand name reigns more supreme than Nike: the premier image of performance, style and success. Born from the trenches of Oregon track and field, Nike has been instrumental in the development of Oregon athletics and student athletes. Eugene, Ore. is now Nike Town, all because of one man and his dream.
There couldn’t have been a more fitting tribute to Phil Knight, in his own arena no less, than a victory over rival Oregon State on his 75th birthday. Despite a 31-point effort by Beavers guard Roberto Nelson, McKnight was graced with a 85-75 victory by the No. 24 ranked Ducks.
Knight has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to both Oregon and Stanford because he is a supportive alumnus of both. In addition to Oregon’s stellar PAC-12 Conference run, Matthew Knight Arena recently celebrated its second birthday. Named after his late son Matthew, who died at the age of 34 in a scuba diving accident, Knight donated millions of dollars to the construction on campus.
Oregon (23-6, 12-4 PAC-12) has a few more plans for Knight’s birthday celebration, however, which might just include a PAC-12 Conference championship for the first time since 2003.
In order to stay away from conference heavyweights UCLA, Arizona and California for as long as possible, Oregon must secure the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament before the regular season wraps up. The Ducks are tied at the top with UCLA with Cal .5 game behind the pair. The next challenge for Oregon: two road match-ups against both Colorado and Utah.
Granted, with only three conference wins in the 2012-13 season, Utah should be more of a formality than a match-up. The Buffaloes, on the other hand, showed their ability to heat up in March last season when they won the PAC-12 Conference Tournament.
It’s unlikely that UCLA will fall to Washington and Washington State on their Northwest road trip to finish the season, so the pressure for Oregon to defeat Colorado on March 7 is unmeasurable. The Ducks may have caught Colorado at the best time as the Buffaloes were recently embarrassed by Cal on March 2. However, Oregon is still trying to figure out their guard play dynamic with the injured Dominic Artis finally working his way back into the lineup.
Artis played 12 minutes and finished with six points on 2-for-2 three-point shooting in the victory over Oregon State.
There’s nothing Phil Knight loves more than making money and beating Oregon State, but rest assured, nothing would make the clothing tycoon smile more than a PAC-12 championship. By beating Colorado and solidifying the No. 1 seed, that may very well happen.
John Engel is a college basketball writer for Rant Sports, covering the PAC-12 and Mountain West conferences. John works for ESPNLA 710 AM radio in addition to Rant Sports. Follow: @engelsportsguy.