The Oregon men’s team will be hitting the road this week coming off of a much-needed home sweep of the mountain schools, including a comeback win against top-20 Colorado. This week though, Oregon can’t afford to fall behind because this might be the most difficult road trip in the Pac-12 this season.
When Oregon hosted the Arizona schools back in January it was two tight Oregon victories. They got the Wildcats 74-73 in overtime, and then got the Sun Devils 78-69 in a game they had control throughout, but struggled to put them away until late.
This is going to be a critical trip when it comes down to who will win the regular-season Pac-12 title.
Keys to Beating Arizona State
Things have changed dramatically around what this game could’ve been a couple of weeks ago. The Sun Devils were really struggling following a 1-3 start to conference play, but since then, they have gone 7-1, with home wins over Arizona and USC, and a road win over Stanford.
The tempo of this game is going to be critical. Arizona State plays at the fastest tempo in the conference and has an average possession length of 15.9 seconds, while Oregon places ninth in the conference in tempo and has an average possession length of 18.4 seconds.
When two teams play at such drastically different tempos, being able to establish and play the game at the tempo you want is so critical, especially for the team playing on the road.
However, if Oregon can slow this game down, they can take advantage of the Sun Devils inside. The frontcourt still isn’t where it needs to be but it was better this past weekend than it had been and Romello White is the main big they have.
Ball control will also be critical in this one. With Payton Pritchard leading the way, the Ducks have been one of the better teams in the conference in taking care of the ball. It also helps to have such a steady second point guard in Will Richardson. But the Sun Devils have been one of the better teams in the conference in forcing turnovers.
On the flip side, Arizona State is middle of the pack in taking care of the ball, while Oregon is a top-four team in the conference in taking the ball away from their opponents. Now, most of that comes from Chris Duarte, of course, but when Oregon is dialed in defensively with good activity and communication, they can get a lot of deflections.
Oregon also has an overall size advantage on Arizona State, which is not something that the Ducks go into a lot of games with. If this game is played at Oregon’s pace, they could use that size advantage, especially on the perimeter, where Martin and Alonzo Verge stand at only 6’0″ and 6’3″ respectively, and the starting backcourt for Oregon goes 6’2″, 6’5″, and 6’6″.
Kenpom has Oregon winning this game 73-72 with a 55 percent chance of winning.
Keys to Beating Arizona
This is also a game where the tempo is going to be important. However, the difference isn’t quite as drastic with the Wildcats averaging 17.1 seconds per possession in conference play.
The bottom line, this is not a normal Arizona team under Sean Miller. They are still a very solid defensive team, but this has been one of the more consistent offensive teams he’s had in Tucson.
Led by point guard Nico Mannion, the Wildcats have been the third-most efficient offensive team in conference play, which could cause issues for an Oregon team that ranks seventh in defensive efficiency in conference play.
While turnovers are tougher to force from the Wildcats than they are from the Sun Devils, one thing that Oregon can take advantage of is the three-point line.
While the Wildcats are an efficient offensive team and Zeke Nnaji is tough to deal with in the post, the Wildcats are eighth in the conference in three-point shooting.
Mannion doesn’t shoot at a high clip and the main guys Oregon has to be concerned with are Dylan Smith (36.7 percent) and Jemarl Baker (38.3 percent). Stone Gettings is also a threat, but he isn’t as involved in the offense as consistently.
If Oregon is going to win this game though, the main thing it will come down to is rebounding. Arizona is one of the top rebounding teams in the conference in both offensive and defensive rebounding. While Oregon is also one of the top offensive rebounding teams, the Ducks are 10th in the conference in allowing offensive rebounds. Nnaji is the main player that does damage on the offensive boards for the Wildcats, so it will be critical for guys like Shakur Juiston, Francis Okoro, Chandler Lawson, and even C.J. Walker to put a body on Nnaji because if he isn’t blocked out he will give the Wildcats a lot of extra possessions. It will also be helpful if N’Faly Dante can give it a go.
Kenpom has Arizona winning this game 74-69 and gives Oregon a 32 percent chance of winning.
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