Pac-12 Tournament 2012: Why Oregon Will Destroy Wide-Open Field
Overall, it was another disappointing year for Pac-12 basketball. The conference finished with zero teams ranked in the top 25, and it looks like two or three teams at most will get an NCAA Tournament bid.
Pac-12 teams went a combined 0-12 against top 25 teams this season, the first time the conference has gone winless against ranked opponents.
The top four teams in the conference, each of which has earned a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament, are really the only teams with a legit chance to win it.
Washington, California, Oregon and Arizona all finished with at least 21 conference wins and will anxiously await their Thursday opponents. Many have pegged Washington and Cal as the favorites to win the tourney and as the only two teams to get NCAA Tournament invites.
All season long I have been a believer in the Ducks, and here's why they'll play their way to their first NCAA Tournament since 2008.
Second-year head coach Dana Altman has turned the program around since day one, compiling a 43-26 record thus far. He's one of the best coaches in the game and has a history of turning teams around. He took Creighton from 7-19 to 18-10 three years later as well as led the Bluejays to seven NCAA tourney appearances in 12 seasons, including five straight.
In 22 years as a head coach, Altman has taken his team to a postseason tournament in all but five seasons, and Oregon is poised to make another postseason birth in 2012.
In 2011, Oregon won the CBI championship over Creighton.
Oregon typically starts three seniors and two juniors, making a very experienced and talented lineup. Senior Garrett Sim is one of just three players remaining from the Ernie Kent era, as he, senior Jeremy Jacob and junior E.J. Singler have played a lot of games together and have built great chemistry.
Senior transfer Devoe Joseph has been the team's MVP for this season, leading the team in scoring and steals while shooting 44.5 percent from behind the three-point line and earning first-team all-conference honors. When Joseph gets hot, he and the Ducks are impossible to contain. He can pull up and hit jump shots with hands in his face and is very reliable at the charity stripe and in clutch situations.
Oregon also has a solid bench. Transfers Olu Ashaolu and Carlos Emory have provided depth and athleticism in reserve roles for the Ducks, both of whom have come alive as of late and should carry their momentum into the Pac-12 Tournament.
With the exception of Cal, Oregon has defeated each conference team at least once this season, and they have yet to lose two straight games. They have the ability to be incredibly streaky, carrying a four-game winning streak into the postseason, their fourth such streak this year. The Ducks are also exceptional with little rest, going 3-0 in their stretch of back-to-backs this season.
When Oregon had two games in three days, they were victorious in both games five times, and in one game the other three occasions. They're primed for tournament play and have the necessary pieces and head coach to win the Pac-12 Tournament and earn a spot in the big dance, where you can bet they'll be a tough out. They have a fast, athletic, smart and disciplined team that can shoot lights out.
The Ducks have come a long way since the start of the season and know what they have to do to earn an NCAA Tournament bid.
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