At 5-0 and alone at the top of the Pac-12 conference, Oregon Men’s Basketball had some wiggle room heading into their duo of games in the mountains.
After the trip, however, the Ducks now look to a visit from the Arizona schools to assure they remain in first place.
The Ducks were waxed by Colorado in Boulder (not exactly shocking), and then lost a heartbreaker they had every chance to win in Salt Lake City (much more unexpected).
Just when the Ducks were getting healthier and sitting pretty, they received a harsh dose of reality: the season is far from over, and there is still work to do.
That work begins on Thursday when the Ducks welcome Arizona State, who’s been overachieving, followed by Arizona, who’s been slightly underachieving, on Saturday.
The Ducks are undefeated at home so far this year, and historically Matthew Knight Arena has been a house of horrors for the Wildcats in particular. With it just being announced that 5-star freshman Mookie Cook will be missing the two games with a foot injury, Oregon will certainly have to step it up.
Probably the biggest key will be the physical and mental conditioning of center N’Faly Dante, who is still getting his conditioning back and who may be in a state of great frustration after missing on a couple clutch situations in Utah.
If Dante can be a force on the inside and stay on the floor for a significant amount of time, it will help open things up for Oregon’s guards, who have been playing pretty solidly this season, particularly Jermaine Couisnard and Jackson Shelstad.
Center Nate Bittle, who himself may well need to get his conditioning back ion order after missing significant time, will be a factor in this scheme as well should he see more of the floor in Eugene.