Oregon Ducks at Utah Utes
11:30 a.m. PT :: Jon Huntsman Center :: Salt Lake City
TV :: Pac-12 Network
The horror of Thursday's performance is behind us, and Oregon gets a mulligan and one final chance to clinch the Pac-12 title as they head into Salt Lake City for an early matchup with the Utah Utes. Utah is not a great team, and Oregon handled them easily earlier in the season in Eugene. That said, they have won three of their last four at home, including victories over Colorado and Arizona State, with the lone loss being a narrow four-point escape by the Arizona Wildcats. This is a dangerous game, and a loss would not only cost Oregon a Pac-12 title, but could make their tournament resume a little more bubbly than we had previously believed it would be.
The Utes want to slow the game way down, and get into a sloggy halfcourt mess. They're the worst offensive rebounding team in the league, preferring to just get back on defense and stop the fast break rather than crash the boards. They don't run, they don't get to the line, and are among the least efficient teams in the conference because they don't get any easy baskets.
However, that doesn't mean this is an easy game for Oregon. We've seen Oregon's offense bog down almost completely in the fact of strong defensive pressure, and Utah will certainly provide that. Oregon is going to have to match Utah from a defensive pressure standpoint, and also dominate the boards completely. They should be able to do both, but they've had a propensity for laying first half eggs lately.
Jared DuBois is the Utes' most dangerous offensive player. He averages 12 a game and hits the three at a 40% clip. Forward Jordan Loveridge is also in double digits, and will step out all the way to the three-point line. Seven-footer Jason Washburn provides a low post presence. The latter two each average around seven rebounds a game. That said, there's not a lot there that scares you offensively. While Utah can go eight or nine deep, it can't necessarily do so with great players.
This is a game that Oregon should win, and claim the conference crown to go with it. But it will require a much better effort than what we saw on Thursday. Utah's been successful at home and has done a good job of mucking games up. At the end of the day, Oregon will either be conference champions, or have completed a stunning late-season collapse. Here's hoping for the former.