Oregon’s chance of earning an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament faded away weeks ago.
That left the Ducks seeking a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament to boost their hopes of making a run to the NCAAs, but three straight losses have made that an unlikely goal as well.
“We are going to have to make a run, we’ve got to win four games in the (Pac-12) tournament,” Oregon junior guard Payton Pritchard acknowledged. “I think we can do that because we can compete with every team. We have shown we can be there with every team, but we just can’t make plays at the end. That has got to change.”
No team has won four games in four days to win the conference tournament since Colorado in 2012, the first year of the expanded field. The last six tournament champions entered as a top-three seed.
Oregon has fallen into 10th place in the conference at 6-8, 2 1/2 games out of fourth with four games remaining in the regular season.
“We’re never going to quit,” UO senior forward Paul White said. “If anything, we have shown we can hang with teams in this conference. We still have the Arizona schools and the Washington schools. We have got to use that to our advantage and ride into the tournament to see where that takes us.”
Oregon has beaten six conference teams and led in the final two minutes in losses to Washington, Oregon State, and UCLA. The Ducks lost 78-64 at Arizona State, which arrives for a rematch at Matthew Knight Arena on Thursday, and Oregon fell 73-51 at Colorado in its lone meeting with the Buffaloes.
After ASU arrives on Thursday, Oregon hosts Arizona Saturday night before visiting Washington State and Washington next week.
“We are going to make a statement,” Pritchard said. “Go into those games like it is a championship game, every one of them. We are going to battle and we will be ready for the tournament.”
The conference is tightly packed from second to 10th place with Oregon one-half game out of seventh and 1 1/2 games back of fifth place as it seeks to move up the seeding line for the tournament at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas from March 13-16.
“We just have to keep flowing together as a a team,” Pritchard said. “Everyone has to be in the boat, balling for each other.”
After losing by a combined 32 points at Oregon State and USC, Oregon built a 19-point second half lead before losing 90-83 at UCLA on Saturday.
“That was a very tough loss for us,” White said. “It is really going to test our character, but I think we are strong.”
Altman was asked following the loss to the Bruins about motivating his team with a first-round bye in the conference tournament likely out of the picture.
“We just have to worry about ASU, go win a game,” he responded. “I hope winning is important to them. Winning games and going back home is very important.”