No. 1 Villanova was upset by Marquette 74-72. No. 2 Kanas was blasted against West Virginia 85-69. Finally, No. 4 Kentucky fell to Tennessee 82-80. These losses came on the road for these top-ranked teams. The Oregon Ducks go on the road this week to face Utah and Colorado. The Ducks should take Utah seriously as they are 5-2 in conference and 14-5 overall with four of those losses coming against ranked opponents. Especially since top ranked teams have lost their share of road games recently. These road games for Oregon provide an opportunity to capitalize on the losses of other teams and continue to build their NCAA tournament resume for a top seed.
Road wins in conference are important as they test teams when they face adversity in a hostile environment. Yes top-ranked teams get beat on the road every single year but that isn’t the sign of a bad team. Getting a win late in the season when it matters most, is the sign of a good team. The teams mentioned earlier who lost will all likely get a win in a tight game later in the season when they need to come up big because their still good.
Oregon, who is 7-0 in conference and 18-2 overall, set the school record last Saturday against Stanford for the longest winning streak in school history with its 16th consecutive victory. The rest of the Pac-12 will be trying to snap that streak until it’s broken.
Even if Oregon loses a game in the coming weeks, it doesn’t diminish how good this team has become this season. The polls reflect primarily who has lost most recently. Oregon is destined to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament as this team is built around its depth, not one single player. Oregon has five players scoring in double figures.
According to the Associated Press, Dana Altman said “I think our balance is our identity, and I like to see that, when guys are making plays for each other, we’re pretty good. When the ball’s hitting the floor too much, we’re not nearly as good.”
Oregon’s resume will get its toughest challenge of the season on February 4th when the No. 7 Arizona Wildcats visit Eugene. Arizona is another title contender this year and has been playing some very good basketball. The Wildcats have only lost to a tough Butler Bulldogs team ranked No. 11 currently (who has also upset Villanova when they were ranked No. 1 previously) and an undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs team that is No. 3 in the polls. Arizona came into this week 7-0 in Pac-12 play and 18-2 overall.
Dillon Brooks who suffered a foot injury last week against California is listed as a game time decision in the game Thursday night against Utah. Thankfully for the Ducks, it doesn’t appear that Brooks will miss much time due to the injury and should be back before Oregon takes on Arizona next week when they will need his playmaking ability.
Oregon should take care of business on the road this week as they saw other top-ranked teams lose. If they are beaten numerous times the rest of the way, that could lead to a lower seeding in the NCAA tournament. But this team seems destined for yet another run at the Pac-12 championship and a top seed when March Madness arrives.