A game against Washington is always big, but tonight's matchup versus the Huskies takes an added importance, as for Oregon to have a shot at a postseason bid, they must win tonight, not only for a chance at the Pac-10's automatic NCAA bid, but to also have a shot in the CBI.
Unfortunately, this is not the situation we were hoping for. A few weeks ago, the Ducks were sitting at 14-12 and eying a possible NIT berth. Stagnant and uninspired play dropped the Ducks to 14-16. The Ducks had to win two games in the conference tournament just to get to .500. Unfortunately, a loss tonight would give the Ducks a losing record on the season, which would make them not nearly as attractive to the CBI.
Last year, the only team with a losing record that made it into the CBI was Oregon State. As defending champion, they had a 14-17, but had an 8-10 conference record.
Two years ago there were two teams with losing records. Oregon State, the eventual CBI champion, had a 13-17 (7-11) record. St. John's also made the cut with a 16-17 (6-12) record. Wichita State also made the group with 16-16 (8-10 Missouri Valley) record. Stanford also played in the CBI that year, though they had an 18-13 (6-12) record.
I think the Ducks are an attractive team for the CBI. After starting out slow, they've played some stretches of very good basketball, are a fun team to watch, and are a team that is on the upswing after two seasons of terrible performances. Duck fans are excited about the direction of the team, and fan interest will be high. On top of that, the Oregon athletic department is willing to buy their way into the CBI, which is just as important as having a good record. Add the new arena on top of that, and you've got a team with a lot going for it.
While the Ducks could sneak into the postseason without a win tonight, beating the Huskies would go a long ways towards continuing the season.
Or, the Ducks could just win the next two games, and secure a spot in the NCAA tournament. That sounds like a much better plan.