The Ducks capped off the regular season with an 80-59 victory over their rival, the Oregon State Beavers. With Oregon at the top of the Pac-12, and OSU at the bottom, this game was considered to be a mere formality for the Ducks to enter the postseason with some momentum.
The first half didn’t start out so easy for Oregon, with the team shooting 36.7 percent in the opening twenty minutes. While the Beavers did not shoot well themselves, only 28.6 percent, they did a good job at keeping the Ducks offense down for most of the first half. After a layup from Drew Eubanks to tie the game at 22 with 4:10 remaining in the half, it looked like the Beavers had an opportunity to pull off one of the biggest upsets in college basketball this season. But the Ducks had different plans. Oregon ended the half on a 10-2 run to go into the half up eight. When the lead was pushed to double-digits in the first minute of the second half, it never dipped back into single-digits again.
Despite the slow start, the short trip to Corvallis turned out to be an average game for the Ducks. Dillon Brooks led all scorers with 25, Jordan Bell finished with a double-double, and Bell and Boucher also combined to block seven shots in the 21-point win. The victory over the in-state rival was even sweeter given that it clinched the one-seed in this week’s Pac-12 tournament.
The Ducks finished the regular season by repeating as Pac-12 champions for the second year in a row. This feat is impressive for Oregon’s tournament resume, but it will have to take care of business this week in the conference tournament if it wants any chance of entering March Madness with a one-seed again.
Oregon definitely has an advantage on its road to the Pac-12 title. The team is a combined 7-0 against every team on its side of the bracket, so the Ducks are the obvious choice to come out of that side. The other semifinal match will likely be between UCLA and Arizona, and both will be looking to prove itself as the best team in the Pac-12. It won’t be easy for the Ducks, but they have one of the best roads to win what will be a very entertaining Pac-12 tournament.
The potential match-up with UCLA or Arizona is a little concerning to Oregon, especially when considering that both teams are strong in the area that Oregon lacks the most: future lottery picks. While the lack of star power has loomed over Oregon all season long, it hasn’t proven to be a thorn in its side yet. The Ducks’ strength has been the balance that the team has. Also, while he’s not considered to be a top prospect for the NBA Draft, Dillon Brooks has proven himself to be one of the top offensive threats in the conference, winning Pac-12 Player of the Year. Chris Boucher and Jordan Bell also made the all-conference defensive team, with Bell taking Defensive Player of the Year.
The Ducks may not have the star power that the other top teams have, but they have depth and experience unlike most teams in the country, and history shows that such a strength can prove invaluable in March. Three of the last four national champions have had rosters mostly built around upperclassmen, with the exception being a stacked Duke team in 2015. Experience pays off in March, and with most of the major contributors on the team coming off an Elite Eight appearance last year, the Ducks should be in good position to make another deep tournament run.