Preview: Ducks face tough test in the desert
In Joe Lunardi’s latest ESPN Bracketology, the Ducks were nowhere to be found.
If they want to jump back into NCAA Tournament conversation, they need at least one win over Arizona State or Arizona. Wins over both are unlikely.
Arizona State started the season 12-0 with wins over Kansas and Xavier, but Pac-12 play hasn’t been as good to the Sun Devils. They lost their first two conference games, dropping away games against Arizona and Colorado.
The Ducks play on Thursday at No. 11 Arizona State, the surprise team of the Pac-12. The Sun Devils have a potent offense, scoring 120.8 points per 100 possessions, according to kenpom.com, which ranks fourth in the country.
The Sun Devils are led by a potent backcourt. Shooting guard Tra Holder leads the Pac-12 in scoring by grabbing 21.4 points per game. Point guard Shannon Evans is also in the top 10 in points per game at 16.9.
Arizona State will attack the Ducks with its guards and fast tempo. The Sun Devils aren’t the fastest team in the country, but they are far faster than the Ducks.
Beating the upstart Sun Devils would be an impressive win for Oregon. The Ducks will need to outrebound the Sun Devils if they want to win. Oregon is 10-1 when winning the rebounding battle this season, and Arizona State is only ninth in the Pac-12 in rebounding margin.
The two Arizona schools are the top two shooting teams in the Pac-12, and Oregon is the top shooting defense.
So the Ducks have a chance, but Arizona has looked even better than the Sun Devils.
The Wildcats were many people’s No. 1 team in the country in the preseason, but a 3-3 tarnished the start of the season. But Arizona has gone 11-1 since, with the only loss at Colorado.
While Arizona State is led by its guards, No. 17 Arizona is led by its center Deandre Ayton.
Ayton could be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. The 7-foot-1 inch, 250 pound freshman. He is averaging a double-double: 20 points and 11.6 rebounds. He’s third in the Pac-12 in point per game and first in rebounds.
Arizona is the 13th tallest team in the country, so the Ducks will have to rely on their centers and forwards throughout the game. If the Ducks want to challenge Arizona, then Kenny Wooten will need to limit his fouls as the Ducks need to limit Ayton.
If Ayton is off, Arizona has experienced, talented players around him. Alonzo Trier is a shooting guard is a quality scorer who has one of the best true shooting percentages in the country. He is versatile. He plays minutes at point guard and small forward for the Wildcats.
If the Ducks wish to make the NCAA Tournament, they do not want to go 0-2 in the desert and drop to 1-4 in the Pac-12. One win over the teams would be impressive, and two could be monumental.
Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917
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