Oregon Ducks vs. Arizona Wildcats Pick 2/22/20
Oregon Ducks (20-7 SU, 15-12 ATS) vs. Arizona Wildcats (19-7 SU, 15-11 ATS)
When: Saturday, February 22, 9 p.m.
Where: McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz.
Point Spread: ORE +4.5/ARIZ -4.5 (GTBets)
Total: O/U 139.5
Last Time Out:
Oregon lost 77-72 to Arizona State; Arizona hammered Oregon State
Scouting the Ducks:
If Oregon doesn’t get out of this funk, it’s in; it’s going to find itself playing on Day 1 of the Pac-12 tournament. That’s both a testament to how much stronger the league had gotten since last season when Oregon had to win the Pac-12 tournament just to qualify for the NCAA tournament. The Ducks don’t have any worries about that this season, but they do have the serious concern of seeing their seed drop and putting them in an unfavorable situation in the first and second round.
The main reasons for Oregon’s struggles are that the Ducks are turning the ball over far too often and getting far too little out of their big men. N’Faly Dante can’t do anything about being injured, but the Ducks can definitely do something about their forwards combining for 15 of 72 points against Arizona State. Shakur Juiston was the only one to get anything done against the Sun Devils, and when the Ducks’ starting guards commit nine turnovers between the three of them, that’s just not going to work. Oregon has to do a better job of taking care of the ball, and that means a better performance in the frontcourt.
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Scouting the Wildcats:
The Wildcats looked dead in the water after a 13-point home loss to a mystifying UCLA squad that has picked it up quite well in Pac-12 play. It turned out the loss was more about the Bruins playing well than the Wildcats falling apart, as Arizona has won three straight since that game and put itself in an excellent position to possibly win the Pac-12 crown. The Wildcats winning it would be a little cheap, because the Arizona schools were the one group of teams that didn’t have to make the nightmarish Colorado-Utah trip. Still, Arizona and Arizona State can’t help their schedule, and the Wildcats have parlayed their advantage by riding the emergence of freshman Josh Green.
Green has developed into one of the more exciting players in the Pac-12 and one of the Wildcats’ more consistent scorers, having hit double figures in four of Arizona’s past five games. When Green isn’t hitting, the Wildcats become much more beatable, as three of Arizona’s four losses in Pac-12 play have come when Green shot 30 percent or worse, including none for eight in a one-pointer at Arizona State. The one game where Green shot well, and it wasn’t enough? Oregon, of course, as the Ducks won in overtime despite 17 points from Green.
Pac-12 pressure. These two teams have a very real chance at the league title and most likely the right to stay out west for the NCAA tournament. Whoever wins the Pac-12 is likely to find itself in Spokane or Sacramento for the first two rounds and Los Angeles for the regionals, and while that likely means a Sweet 16 matchup with Gonzaga, a school like Arizona or Oregon would be able to put plenty of fans in the Staples Center and neutralize the Bulldogs’ travel advantage. Not so for the teams that get sent to other regionals, as Oregon and Arizona are both on the No. 5 line and could find themselves in either the Midwest with Kansas or the South with Baylor. The final option would likely be San Diego State in New York, and while that would be a true neutral court, winning that game would probably mean walking into an Elite Eight matchup with Duke or Seton Hall in what amounts to a virtual road game against either opponent.
The way to avoid that nightmare scenario is to win this game and win the Pac-12 tournament, which only increases the pressure on two teams that have been the league’s glamour programs for much of this decade.
Oregon will Cover if:
The Ducks can take care of the basketball. Oregon didn’t shoot it great against Arizona the first time these teams met, but it ended up not mattering because the Ducks didn’t give the Wildcats many extra possessions, only turning it over ten times. Oregon has to either shoot it better or avoid shooting itself in the foot to get a result here, as Arizona is playing very well right now and will likely punish any small error.
Arizona will Cover if:
The Wildcats can take advantage of Oregon’s struggles on the defensive end. The Ducks aren’t a great defensive team, and McKale Center can get very intimidating in a hurry if the home team gets on a run. Arizona has dropped four straight to Oregon and will need to take advantage of every edge it can get, so the Wildcats need to get off to a good start and find the holes in the Duck defense.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
Is it time to worry about Oregon, and is Arizona for real? Actually, I’m not entirely sold. Sure, the Wildcats have won three straight since losing to UCLA, but the wins were over Stanford, California and Oregon State, all of whom are in the bottom half of the Pac-12. Their best win over their past eight games is USC, who sits sixth in the league. Otherwise, they’ve beaten the teams in seventh, eighth, ninth, 11th and 12th, while losing to the two teams they’ve played in the top half of the league.
Oregon might be struggling as of late, but here’s one thing the Ducks haven’t done all year: lose two games on the same trip. Oregon has still won four straight against Arizona and knows how to handle playing in Tucson. The Ducks also aren’t far off a win over Colorado, which is still leading the Pac-12, and they’ve had to play a tougher slate than Arizona.
I’m not buying it with the Wildcats. Give me the Ducks and the points.
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