Oregon has never clinched a Pac-12 men’s basketball title on its home court.
The Ducks could celebrate with their fans Saturday night at Matthew Knight Arena if they are able to finish off an undefeated home schedule with wins over California and Stanford this week.
Oregon (22-7) enters the final week of the regular season at 11-5 in the conference, one-half game back of first-place UCLA (19-11, 12-5). The Ducks would have the tiebreaker over the Bruins for the top seed in the Pac-12 Tournament because they beat UCLA 96-75 on Jan. 26 in the lone meetings between the schools in the regular season.
Oregon can move back into a tie for first with the Bruins by defeating Cal (13-16, 7-9) Thursday at 8 p.m. However, a loss to the Bears would mean that the Ducks need to beat Stanford (20-9, 9-7) on Saturday and have USC beat UCLA in order for Oregon to share the title with the Bruins.
UCLA wraps up its Pac-12 schedule at USC Saturday at 12:15 p.m. while the Ducks play Stanford at Matthew Knight Arena at 8 p.m. that evening.
Oregon is seeking its third Pac-12 title in five years while first-year UCLA coach Mick Cronin is trying to bring the Bruins their first crown since 2012-13.
“When we came here 10 years ago, we looked at the league and said at the time that UCLA, Arizona and Washington were dominating,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said following Thursday’s 69-54 win over Oregon State. “That was who we focused on to try and catch them. Now, I think people are focused on us a little bit and catching us. You look at the atmosphere when we go on the road this year and we are the highest-ranked team in the conference and everyone wants to get us to get a quality win.”
Altman led the Ducks to back-to-back Pac-12 titles in 2016 and 2017.
Oregon wrapped up the outright championship in 2016 by winning at USC, 76-66, in the final game of the regular season to finish 14-4, one game ahead of Utah. The following year, Oregon closed out a 16-2 record by winning 80-59 at Oregon State to tie Arizona for the title.
The Ducks won their only Pac-10 title in 2002 by winning 67-65 at USC in the next-to-last game of the regular season before finishing 14-4, two games ahead of Cal, Arizona, USC and Stanford.
Oregon has been near the top of the conference standings all season and spent a couple weeks in first place before falling out with a 77-72 at Arizona State on Feb. 20. The Ducks bounced back with back-to-back wins over Arizona and Oregon State to keep their conference title hopes alive.
“I feel like we are out there kind of playing desperate and when you are desperate, you are a good team out there scratching for our lives,” UO senior guard Anthony Mathis said. “We are scrambling and playing super hard, so it is good to come out and play like that.”
PRITCHARD MAKES THE CUT
UO senior Payton Pritchard is one of five finalists for the Bob Cousy point guard of the year award. He is joined on the list by Devon Dotson of Kansas, Malachi Flynn of San Diego State, Markus Howard of Marquette and Tre Jones of Duke.
Pritchard is averaging 20.2 points, 5.4 assists and 4.3 rebounds and is the only player in the country averaging at least 20 points, five assists and four rebounds. He is one of five players leading his conference in scoring and assists.
The winner of the award will be announced on April 10.
DUCKS RISE IN POLL
Oregon moved up one spot to No. 13 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25. The Ducks are the only Pac-12 team in the poll.
Oregon is 3-1 against teams in the Top 25 with wins over No. 8 Seton Hall, No. 21 Houston and No. 25 Michigan. The Ducks lost to second-ranked Gonzaga.