Oregon heads to Arizona State looking to finish season at or over .500

Up until last weekend, Oregon had been excellent at home, but two poor performances at Matt Court put serious doubt into Oregon hopes to finish at or about .500. And their best chance will come tonight against last place Arizona State.

The Sun Devils have two conference wins, and one was against Ducks at the final game at Mac Court. The Ducks shot a pathetic 32% from the floor and 25% from 3 that night, and that poor performance handed the game to the Sun Devils

The Ducks have improved by leaps and bounds as the season has progressed, but they will need to greatly improve on last week's play if they want to get a victory and have any chance of getting a bye in the Pac-10 tournament.

The key to beating ASU will be beating their zone. They are an average Pac-10 team defensively, allowing opposing offenses to shoot 43% from the field, but they have held opposing teams to only 33% from three point range. They have done a great job at rotating and getting out on shooter, and have been able to hold down 3 point shooting percentage much better than other zone defense teams. The Ducks will have a challenge, but this is definitely something the Ducks have seen throughout the season.

They've faced plenty of zone teams throughout the year, and have done a surprisingly good job of attacking those zones, at least until the second half of the Cal game and then the Stanford game. Both teams employed zones which limited the Ducks inside game, and hampered the Ducks outside shooting. Part of this was defensive pressure, but at least in the Cal game, the Ducks just looked off. They didn't play with the same confidence and authority that they did earlier in the season. They looked scared of attacking the zone, and their offense suffered because of that. The Ducks have the ability to be successful offensively against ASU, but the performance last week does not inspire confidence.

When the Ducks are on defense, they'll have an easier job. ASU is the worst scoring team in the Pac-10 by a good margin, scoring only 62.9 points per game, and are the second worst shooting team in the Pac-10, after Oregon.

The Ducks have been successful on defense when they play with energy and disciple. They have limited bigger and strong teams by contesting every shot and every pass. If they do the same against ASU, they'll likely have a good chance of holding down the ASU offense, even if the Oregon offense doesn't look great.

The Ducks have been a great surprise this season, and despite last weeks setback, they have a chance to get their 8th Pac-10 win tonight. I'm hopeful that they can do this, but they'll need to play with confidence and energy that was lacking last week.

***

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