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Ducks guard Payton Pritchard (3) pushes back against Cavaliers guard Ty Jerome (11). Oregon Ducks men's basketball takes on University of Virginia at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky. on March 28, 2019. (Ben Green/Emerald)

After an appearance in the Sweet 16 last season, the Ducks open the new season ranked No. 15 in the country and will be a program under the microscope in 2019-20. Not only will the Ducks have to tangle with the usual Pac-12 foes, but they will face a number of tough nonconference opponents as well.

Oregon’s first big test will be against No. 14 Memphis at the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Oregon, on Nov. 12. Memphis received a lot of hype in 2018 after it hired former NBA star and Memphis alum Penny Hardaway as head coach. Hardaway landed the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class, headlined by No. 1 overall player James Wiseman and fellow five-star Precious Achiuwa. Defeating the Tigers would boost the Ducks’ early-season NCAA Tournament resume.

The Ducks will host Houston on Nov. 22 on the back end of their home-and-home; the Cougars beat Oregon handily in Houston last December. Like Oregon, Houston went to the Sweet 16 last season as a No. 3 seed before falling to perpetual juggernaut Kentucky 62-58.

Oregon will also play in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas, where it will take on No. 12 Seton Hall. The Pirates were a No. 10 seed in last year's tournament, exiting in the first round against Wofford. This will be yet another excellent opportunity for the Ducks to play against NCAA Tournament-level opponents. 

Perhaps the highest-profile game the Ducks will play this season will be against Michigan in Ann Arbor on Dec. 14. The Wolverines were a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament last year and, like the Ducks, advanced to the Sweet 16 before being upset by Texas Tech. Michigan is one of the elite programs in college basketball and if Oregon wants to be considered an elite team, this is a must-win. 

Oregon will then have to navigate a tricky conference schedule. The Pac-12 has had some down seasons recently, so taking care of business against conference foes will be crucial. The only other ranked team in the conference is No. 21 Arizona. They will play each other twice, with the first meeting coming in Eugene on Jan. 9 and the second on Feb. 22 in Tucson. 

Only three Pac-12 teams qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season: Oregon, Arizona State and Washington. Arizona State had to play its way into the tournament, beating St. John’s in the First Four before being blown out by Buffalo, 91-74, as a No. 11 seed. Oregon will play Arizona State on Jan. 11 in Eugene and Feb. 20 in Tempe. 

The Huskies were a No. 9 seed in last year’s tournament. In the opening round, they upset Utah State. In the round of 32, they were outclassed by No. 1 North Carolina, 81-59. Oregon will travel to Seattle to take on the Huskies on Jan. 18. 

The Ducks will continue their Civil War series with Oregon State on Feb. 8 in Corvallis and Feb. 27 in Eugene, with the Beavers coming off of a much-improved 18-13 season.

If Oregon survives its tough non-conference schedule, a high seed in the NCAA Tournament, and deep tournament run, should be well within reach.