Believe it or not, we are already entering the final week of the regular season of college basketball. It's been a remarkable journey for the Oregon men's basketball team. The team rolled to a 7-0 start in Pac-12 play, then lost three in a row following the loss of point guard Dominic Artis. However, the team has rebounded nicely from the streak, and is now healthy at the right time. In spite of how poorly they played at times without Artis, this team enters the last week of conference play in a position we all would have been thrilled with in the preseason: safely into the NCAA Tournament, and completely in control of their own destiny for the Pac-12 title.
The Ducks sit at 12-4, tied atop the conference with UCLA. However, as the Ducks defeated UCLA, they hold the tiebreaker over the Bruins. While UCLA also goes on the road the final week of the season, they do so at the Washington schools, and is unlikely to lose either game. An Oregon loss would put them behind the Bruins in the Pac-12 standings.
Furthermore, even if UCLA were to lose, a loss would put Oregon in a four-way tie with UCLA, Arizona, and California, with Cal holding the tiebreaker by having wins over all three teams. With Cal hosting Stanford next week, they, too, are unlikely to fall.
The mountain road trip will not be an easy one for the Ducks. It is difficult to beat Colorado in Boulder, and the Buffaloes, an NCAA Tournament team in their own right, have already beaten the Ducks once this season. Utah has also been tough at home of late, knocking of Colorado and Arizona State, and taking Arizona to the wire in their last three home games.
As much as the stretch without Artis hurt (and we'd already have this conference sewn up if he'd have never been hurt), Duck fans would have easily taken this situation at the beginning of the season. It's not an easy road trip, but one you have to be able to take if you expect to be the champion of a major conference. It will have been a successful season regardless of how this week turns out. But the Ducks have won only one conference championship since 1944. These chances don't come around often. Here's hoping the Ducks grab this one by the horns and seize it.