College Basketball Pick
With UCLA’s recent struggles, this Game could easily decide the Pac-12 regular season champion as it’s the only time these teams will meet. Both teams played their in-state rival on Thursday, but this one is undoubtedly bigger for them. Arizona and Oregon have won the last three Conference titles between them and it looks like it’ll be a Fourth after this season. The Wildcats have been on an absolute tear and look like one of the best teams in the country, which was highlighted by road wins at USC and UCLA in the same week. Their lone losses came earlier in the season to solid Butler and Gonzaga teams without Allonzo Trier.
Oregon was on a run of its own, 17 straight, although didn’t have as quality of wins as Arizona. The Ducks have been good, but not great and that was seen in their loss at Colorado last weekend. Of course, they still haven’t lost at home, which could be the main deciding factor in this one. Their closest Game happened to be the win over UCLA when Dillon Brooks hit a buzzer-beating three. OUtside of that, the Ducks haven’t really been challenged in Eugene, but Arizona will likely change that.
Oregon won both of these meetings a year ago, but they were arguably better last season and Arizona was arguably worse. The main component in this Game is that both teams have the best defenses in the Pac-12 in a number of categories. Oregon has a slight edge in defensive efficiency, while Arizona leads in effective FG% and three-point percentage allowed. This contest has all the makings of a close Game throughout.
That’s possible because both teams can match up fairly well with one another. The Wildcats usually have an edge in size with LAuri Markkanen, who can stretch the floor, Dusan Ristic down low and Chance Comanche off the bench. However, Oregon has the players that can deal with that size. Chris Boucher has the athleticism to defend Markkanen beyond the perimeter, while Jordan Bell may give up some pounds, but he’s still averaging 7.5 boards per Game. The key will be staying out of foul trouble for Oregon’s bigs as backups Kavell Bigby-Williams and Roman Sorkin don’t get much floor time.
Similarly in the backcOurt and at small forward, both teams have the tools to defend whatever the other team throws at them. Of course, the addition of Trier has made Arizona one of the deeper teams around with freshmen Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins getting more experience early in the season. With Trier, Arizona has six guys that are averaging double figures, which just shows all the ways this team can attack. Markkanen can spread the floor with Simmons and Alkins, while Ristic and Comanche work down low. And then there’s still defensive specialist Parker Jackson-Cartwright.
Oregon isn’t quite as balanced, but it’s close with five guys averaging at least 11 points per Game and Payton Pritchard at 8.3 ppg. But that’s not to say Pritchard can’t go off because he has gotten hot from deep in recent Games and had 19 points in the Colorado loss. The Ducks also have a team full of shooters, but they’ll try and establish some kind of paint presence in this Game with Bell. Otherwise, trying to beat Arizona solely by hitting threes isn’t the route to take.
These teams are extremely similar, but it’s going to be singular players that win it. That means someone like Brooks taking over, or Trier putting his foot forward in just his fifth start since returning from suspension could decide it. The Ducks haven’t been beaten at home since Jan. 8, 2015 against Arizona. Will the Wildcats be the ones to break that streak?
Our Pick – Oregon by 3