The ninth-ranked Oregon Basketball team have won six of their last seven games losing in Boulder and falling slightly entering the Pac-12 home opener vs Arizona on Thursday night.
Momentum is sometimes a funny thing. Entering this week, Oregon is ranked as a top ten team, but they will be able to show that they are in fact worthy of the ranking vs Arizona at home. Matthew Knight Arena has seen some solid crowds for Oregon so far this season with the most anticipated game vs Houston putting close to 9500 in the seats in the non-conference slate.
Arizona is a different animal altogether. Oregon and Arizona have battled back and forth over the last ten years for supremacy in the Pac-12 Basketball World and that fight continues this week with the Wildcats in town.
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If you look at the schedules so far, Oregon Basketball has played the tougher slate with close games against Gonzaga along with wins vs Seton Hall and Michigan. Oregon has a total of four quality wins entering conference play that will go a long way into determining where they land in March.
For Arizona, the Wildcats are 11-3 entering Thursday night. Zeke Nnaji is the player to watch averaging better than 16 points per game. He is also hitting 69 percent from the floor as Arizona is averaging over 83 points per game, good enough for 9th in the nation. The Wildcats are also averaging 17 assists showing early efficiency on the offensive side.
Oregon counters with Payton Pritchard, who seems to the guy who can do everything. Pritchard is the most experienced Duck on the floor, but he also has a cast that supports him well. Anthony Mathis will need to find his range early and Shakur Juiston should have shaken off the rust after being back for two games following an injury that kept him sidelined.
Both teams know that is at stake and the Ducks certainly have put together enough on the floor this season to get the job done vs Arizona. The addition of N’Faly Dante has helped defensively and he has also shown he can shoot with a mid-range jumper.
On Thursday, the key may be Mathis. If he is double-teamed, it will open up a lane for Pritchard or an outlet. If his shot is on early, I will look for him to lead the way.
Oregon and Arizona tipoff at 6 pm Thursday from Matthew Knight Arena on ESPN.