The Oregon Ducks will head to Las Vegas in just over a month and play in the Pac 12 postseason basketball tournament. It will be some of the most meaningful basketball they play as each win or loss determines if they will make March Madness and where they could land in the seeding. So far, the Ducks find themselves in a challenging situation, sitting in the first four out on several prominent bracket predictions. Let’s break down the state of Oregon basketball with just a little less than a month remaining in the regular season before we look at where they might be playing in March.
Oregon is undoubtedly playing less than ideal more than halfway through the season. This Ducks team was ranked 2nd in the Pac 12 rankings during the preseason and were projected to finish second behind UCLA. The Ducks were coming off a 2020-21 season where they finished first in the Pac 12 regular season standings and went 14-4 overall in conference play. Oregon made it to the Sweet 16 but was blown out by fellow conference rivals USC, which was the end of their season.
The momentum off the loss has been more evident than the success of the regular season. The Ducks find themselves sitting fourth in the current Pac 12 standings with a 6-3 conference record and a 13-7 overall record. They have had some really horrendous losses this season, maybe none as bad as an 81-49 loss at the hands of BYU. It was seen as not just a bad loss but a downright embarrassing one. This came to a school that has been overlooked by the Pac 12 for years and will now join the Big 12 in just a few seasons. It didn’t just look bad on Oregon but for the entire conference as a whole.
It didn’t get any better for the Ducks early on as they were also defeated by a reeling Arizona State team that has plenty of issues on their own and were also beaten on a buzzer-beater against Stanford. When they lost that game to the Cardinal, they dropped to 5-5 on the season.
But things have turned around since then; the Ducks got hate late in 2021 and carried that into January. They pulled off upsets of both USC and UCLA. Those wins came within two days of each other, and both came on the road. This was the first sign that Oregon was back and that things would be okay. This is the kind of play the Ducks had been waiting for all along. The win over the Bruins was historic. UCLA was ranked number three at the time, and it was the highest-ranked road win in Oregon history.
It’s almost like head coach Dana Altman knew that was the key to getting this team back on track.
“We needed it. We needed something to jumpstart us. Three road wins this week, and now we go home, and we’re going to have our hands full at home. We’ve got to get back and get better. The exciting thing is I still think we have so much room to grow.”
The big change from Oregon was getting their offense going and limiting turnovers. This team was very much in the minus in turnover ratio when they were losing at will, but they quickly turned that into a positive midway through their Pac 12 stretch.
In a year where teams that are towards the top of the standings are losing on any given night, the Ducks must play consistent basketball through the end of the regular season. Oregon has three ranked opponents left on the regular season schedule; they’ll travel to Tucson to face Arizona but will get to host USC and UCLA one final time. Outside of that, things aren’t all that bad; they get Washington, Washington State, Colorado, Utah, Arizona State. In fact, if the Ducks can pull away wins over two of those ranked teams, I don’t think it’s a stretch that they get their names back into the Top-25 ranking, where they were once as high as number 12 in the country.
In the end, it all comes down to these. Of course, anything can change between now and March Madness, with most of the pressure coming during the Pac 12 tournament. Just look at Oregon State last year. They were an otherwise average team that came in and shocked the conference and earned themselves a spot in the big dance.
Currently, ESPN and CBS have the Ducks as one of the “first four out” teams. They are joined by West Virginia, Mississippi State, and Florida State in the ESPN prediction. They are joined by BYU, Wake Forest, and Mississippi State in the CBS bracket.
The Ducks are the 48th ranked team and a 12 seed in the NCAA prediction. The NCAA puts them in the South bracket and the last of the Pac 12 teams to get in.
What we really know is that Oregon just needs to keep winning. If the Ducks win at a high level and consistently, no one can tell them they don’t deserve a shot in March.