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Too Early for Oregon Basketball to Be Dubbed as Pac-12 Contender?


Right in front of our eyes, Oregon is becoming a powerhouse in all things sports. Not only do they boast a top-tier football program, led by head coach and offensive guru Chip Kelly, but their basketball program is taking a major turning point on the national level.

In their 15th game of the season, the Ducks (13-2 overall; 10-0 at home) punctuated their early season burst with an upset victory over No. 4 Arizona on Thursday night, tipping the Pac-12 frontrunners 70-66. The reaction? A nation buzzing with Oregon fever.

The Ducks overcame an 11-0 drought in the first half and turned it into a 41-19 rally that gave them a healthy 11-point lead at halftime (41-30). Yet, even with the advantage at the break, the Wildcats have established themselves as a savvy come-from-behind squad that keeps on mustering wins at an unbelievable output, especially against Colorado, San Diego, Utah and Florida.

In the last few minutes of the second half, it was presumed that this time would be no different. Arizona pressured Oregon into mistakes, and narrowed its gap to 3 points after Nick Johnson netted a 3-pointer with 53 seconds left in the game. In the following possession, Arizona had a chance to cut further into the lead after a missed Oregon 3-point attempt.

But suddenly, there was no more magic for Arizona. Not on the home floor of Oregon.

The Ducks’ Jonathan Loyd forced Arizona into a turnover and drew a foul in the remaining seconds of the game. He netted one of two free throws to put the lead up to four points, out of reach for the Wildcats.

It was a moment worth celebrating for the Oregon faithful and a realignment of  Pac-12 contenders.

While Arizona will only drop down a peg (if at all), Oregon will spend much of the year in the national spotlight while figuring to play for a chance at the conference title. And it could very well end with a rematch of these two elite teams clashing in the the Pac-12 tournament set for late-February.

But there are still matchup problems on the horizon before Oregon gets ahead of itself. It’s biggest draw is on Jan. 19 when the Ducks face UCLA. And the Bruins are by no means a team that roll overs. They boast a defense that ranks 19th in Pomeroy’s efficiency rating and offer up one of the league’s best players in Shabazz Muhammad.

The Ducks have a lot to prove before sustaining a lengthy visit in the national spotlight. But a win against Arizona sure gives them the credit they’ve been due all season.

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