The first road trip in Pac-12 play for Oregon was sure to be a very telling one as far as where the Ducks stood early in this conference season. After Oregon bounced back so well from their infuriating collapse against UCLA, dominating USC and holding them to a mere 60 points, I questioned whether or not the Ducks had “figured it out” as far as their identity and style of play moving forward.
Thursday night in Tucson Oregon certainly looked like they had turned a corner. With gritty defense the Ducks took control of Arizona in perhaps the toughest building in the Pac 12 to play in and though the Wildcats made pushes, Oregon never allowed them to get all the way back. Even after Arizona started making a series of 3-pointers reminiscent of UCLA’s frantic comeback Dana Altman’s crew stayed calm, sinking clutch shots of their own.
But Saturday things fell apart in the second half as Oregon could not stop Arizona State from going on a late run and controlling majority of the second half in a runaway victory for the Sun Devils. After allowing 60 and 54 points the previous two games, Oregon gave up 78 to ASU, who seemed to be able to do whatever they pleased offensively.
So with that, where do we now stand? Well, numerically Oregon stands at 11-7 overall and 2-3 in conference. Again noteworthy is that this is still January and Altman teams have a history of strong finishes (the 2014 squad advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament after starting conference play 3-8). However, it still leaves us with a mystery as to what kind of team Oregon currently is. A team like the one we saw Thursday could win the Pac-12 Tournament and earn a bid to the big dance. A team like the one we saw Saturday is eyeing the NIT…if they’re lucky.
Oregon will once again get a chance to prove what kind of state they’re in on Thursday as Washington, as of now the top team in the conference, pays a visit to Eugene. Oregon men’s basketball has dominated the Huskies the last few years, and the Washington men have never won at Mathew Knight Arena. Freshman Louis King is starting to show why he was a 5-star recruit, Senior Paul White has been on a tear, and a masked Kenny Wooten is back patrolling the paint and, in many cases, the skies. Despite the loss of Bol Bol and Abu Kigab this Oregon team coached by a proven winner is still dangerous.
Thursday will be yet another chance for us to find out how much so.