What a difference three years makes.
Three years ago, Oregon had just fired its all-time winningest coach, Ernie Kent, after consecutive seasons at the bottom of the conference. A mass player exodus followed, with Matt Humphrey, Josh Crittle, Michael Dunigan, Jamil Wilson, and Drew Wiley all transferring away. Coach after coach turned down Oregon's overtures, and there were serious discussions that it could be a five-year process to make Oregon basketball relevant again.
A mere three years later, the Ducks are on the cusp of the Pac-12 title.
True, Oregon could lose in Boulder tonight and still claim the crown with a win in Salt Lake City on Saturday. But, if you're the Ducks, you want this game--a Colorado team that beat you at home only after taking their only lead in the final seconds. A team that ended your NCAA Tournament dreams last season. A team that can give you a big RPI boost coming into the NCAA Tournament.
We know what Colorado will bring. Andre Robertson is one of the best rebounding and defensive bigs in the country, and watching him battle with Arsalan Kazemi will be an absolute treat to watch. But Oregon has to win that battle. Robertson is very similar to Kazemi in that he isn't a dynamic offensive player, and will score most of his points on put-backs and dunks.
Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie are versatile guards who will provide most of the scoring. Neither are terribly efficient offensive players, though both are capable of having big games. But both are just as capable of shooting Colorado out of the game.
What makes the Buffaloes so tough is that they are so good defensively. They are 3rd best in the conference in defensive efficiency, and third best in the entire country in not letting opponents get to the foul line. You factor in the altitude and the home court, and this will be a tough one for Oregon.
That said, the Ducks know they had no business losing to Colorado last time around, and now have the services of Dominic Artis back (and are playing better basketball in general). A Pac-12 title, and another feather in the NCAA resume. Sounds good to me.
Time: 6:00 p.m. PT