On Saturday at 1 p.m. the Oregon Ducks(21-8, 9-8) host the Arizona Wildcats(28-2, 15-2) at Matthew Knight Arena. An Oregon victory would likely solidify its place in the NCAA tournament field.
Here’s how they pull off the upset:
1. Waverly Austin must make an impact defensively and on the boards.
As Oregon’s only true center, Waverly Austin has failed to live up to Ducks fans expectations this season. Outside of the dunk, he’s provided very little evidence that he has any semblance of an offensive repertoire. Because he can’t score, the big man starts most games, but often sits on the bench for almost entire half’s.
However, against Arizona State, he was the definition of an x-factor. Austin scored a Pac-12 season high five points, grabbed a season high 10 rebounds and denied five Sun Devils shots. Though it’s unreasonable to expect Austin to duplicate his performance against Arizona State, if he can simply play well enough to stay on the floor, going up against the best rebounding team in the Pac-12, his presence could prove game-altering.
Despite the loss of F Brandon Ashley, Arizona still has the best frontline in the Pac-12 and one of the best in the nation. Though Austin won’t be able to guard quick forwards Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, he matches up very well with C Kaleb Tarczewski.
“I hope he can contribute. I don’t want to put too much pressure on him. He had a fantastic game against ASU. We’re hoping with Tarczewski’s size, that gives Wav a good matchup,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said.
This season, Tarczewski is averaging 10.2 points on an efficient 58 percent shooting. Last game, Oregon managed to hold Tarczewski to just 12 points, but were forced to double team him occasionally, which led to a few wide-open three’s. If Austin can matchup with him one-on-one for most of the game, it will really help Oregon stymie Arizona’s offensive attack.
2. Joseph Young must play well for 40 minutes.
In the last meeting between these two squads, Young got hurt within the first few minutes and missed most of the first half. In that game, he played just 28 minutes, whereas he’s played at least 30 minutes in every game since.
Plus, Young couldn’t muster a single point before halftime. Though other players stepped up and filled the void in Arizona, Young must be productive the entire game for Oregon to pull off the upset.
“I got hurt the first play of the game. I didn’t play much in the first half. I’m looking forward to playing both half’s,” Young said.
3. Oregon must outscore Arizona in the final five minutes of the game.
Typically, as a test sample increases, the law of averages plays out. The Ducks record in close games is proof of this phenomenon.
So far this year, the Ducks have experienced one lucky run and one unlucky run in close games.
After their initial stretch of games versus overmatched competition, almost every Oregon game has been decided in the last five minutes. Earlier in the year, they pulled off some air-tight victories over Illinois, BYU, Utah and Mississippi.
But after their last second victory over Utah to open the Pac-12 season, the Ducks luck turned sour.
Between Jan. 12 and Feb. 8, the Ducks lost six games in which the outcome was still in question within the final five minutes in a row.
The two point loss to Arizona was the second to last heartbreaker for the Ducks.
In that game, the Oregon held a three-point lead with five minutes remaining.
But in the final five minutes, Oregon turned the ball over three times and missed three free throws. On the other end, G Nick Johnson made six free throws, Arizona converted two lay-ups and G T.J. McConnell knocked down a three-pointer.
However, although they collapsed down the stretch of regulation against UCLA, the Ducks crawled out of the rubble victorious in double-overtime. Oregon also played well in the waining minutes at home against Washington and Oregon State.
“No pressure, but we want this game,” Young commented.
If Young and Austin can play well enough to keep the game close throughout, and if the Ducks can maintain tranquility down the stretch, they should pull off the upset.