5 Things Oregon Basketball Must Do To Make the 2014 NCAA Tournament
Oregon Ducks Look to Move Into Field of 68
The Oregon Ducks got off to a terrific start this season, sweeping their non-conference schedule and posting a record of 12-0. After opening conference play in early January with a 70-68 overtime win at Utah (their third overtime win of the young season), the Ducks traveled to Colorado and were stampeded by the Buffaloes, 100-91.
That game is where the wheels fell off.
They proceeded to lose their next four games in a row. The streak was momentarily halted with a 71-44 win at Washington State, but the Ducks then lost three of the next four games, half of them coming at the hands of the conference upper echelon (Arizona and UCLA).
Ups and downs have continued to follow Oregon (18-8, 6-8 Pac-12), but their latest swing is very encouraging. They're currently on a three-game winning streak and playing their best basketball this calendar year. The only problem is the wins have come against the bottom feeders of the conference, putting a damper on their NCAA Tournament profile. However, this is still a solid team. They probably aren't as good as the generous No. 10 ranking they received earlier this year, but their next four games can quickly change that perception.
Looking inside the numbers, the Ducks haven't really played that badly in their eight losses. Four of them came by the slim margin of two points and another loss at Washington State was just four points. Their only double-digit loss was a 96-83 defeat by Cal. Unfortunately for them, close losses aren't a part of the selection criteria. They get a chance to earn their way into the NCAA Tournament playing the exact four teams they faced before their latest win streak (at UCLA, at USC, Arizona, Arizona State).
5. Finish Games
The Ducks have proven they can play but need to seal the deal in the final two minutes. Games this time of year are obviously more intense and highly contested, so their absolute best effort is needed. The required minimum would probably be a split of their final four regular season games to be considered for the tournament.
4. Impress the Committee
Oregon is blessed to have prime time competition in a key stretch. This Thursday, they travel to face UCLA in a critical game in front of a national audience. They'll stay in Los Angeles to face USC in a game they should win but cannot take lightly because of their current status.
The stakes get higher the following week when they have two games at home against Arizona State and conference leader Arizona. A win in both of those contests should be enough to gain a berth in the tournament.
3. Prepare For Life Without Damyeon Dotson
Right in the middle of a positive turn for the Ducks, they received news that Dotson was cited for using a fake ID to enter a bar over the weekend. He was cited and released by the Eugene Police Department. The offense, misrepresentation of age by a minor, can result in jail by law but he was released without serving any time.
However, this doesn't mean he won't be punished by Oregon officials. Dotson is the fourth leading scorer on the team (10.7 PPG), but the sophomore guard scored 17 and 15 points, respectively, in wins over Oregon State and Washington. He did not play this past Sunday against Washington State. The Ducks are a fairly deep team, but if Dotson isn't available this may hurt their chances.
2. Get Buckets
Scoring is definitely the strength of the Ducks as their 82.8 PPG average is 11th in the country. They'll need to get near or over that mark as their three lowest scoring outputs came against Arizona (65), UCLA (68) and Arizona State (72).
1. Keep Dancin'
The Ducks are the defending Pac-12 tournament champions and are tied for the second most tournament titles with UCLA and Washington at three apiece. Head coach Dana Altman has led his team to steady seasonal progressions, capturing the 16-team College Basketball Invitational his first season, making the NIT quarterfinals his second season and leading Oregon to 28-8 record and a spot in Sweet 16. Clearly his program is on track to be amongst the top teams in the Pac-12 for many seasons.