Why the Oregon Ducks Will Win the Pac-12 Regular-Season Title
The Oregon Ducks are just one win away from clinching their first conference title since 2002, but can the Ducks win both games at Colorado and Utah to guarantee themselves an outright Pac-12 regular-season title?
The Ducks have won five of their last six games and by doing so, they have kept themselves in a position to win the Pac-12 regular-season title.
A meeting with Colorado on Thursday night is going to be difficult. The Buffs play tough at home and are not an easy team to take down. Not to mention, the Buffs already defeated the Ducks once on Feb. 7, in Eugene.
What will be different this time around, though, will be that freshman guard Dominic Artis will be in the lineup.
If the Ducks win both games this week, they will clinch the outright Pac-12 regular-season title. UCLA is currently 12-5 in conference play and trail Oregon by a 0.5 game after being upset by Washington State on Wednesday night.
If Oregon were to drop one game this week, they could potentially share the Pac-12 regular-season title with UCLA. UCLA, of course, would have to win at Washington if this scenario were to happen.
The Ducks appear to have momentum on their side though,, and they will find a way to win both games this week.
Here are five reasons why the Ducks will take the Pac-12 regular-season title:
1. Physical Play from Arsalan Kazemi
Senior forward Arsalan Kazemi against Stanford. The Associated Press
There are no words to describe how much senior forward Arsalan Kazemi means to this team. The Rice transfer came to Oregon in hopes of making an impact and improving the Ducks' frontcourt.
Kazemi has made a huge impact for his team on both the offensive and defensive end. Down the stretch, he has shown what he is capable of and has played an important role in the Ducks' late success.
Kazemi has looked solid in Oregon's past four games by averaging 12.8 points and 12.3 rebounds.
What makes him such an important aspect to his team is how physical he is on the boards. He can make easy shots down low and also give his team second-chance opportunities on the offensive end with his ability to rebound.
Not only does he make an impact on the offensive end, but he is tough on the defensive end as well. Kazemi battles for 50-50 balls and a majority of the time comes up with the loose ball.
He is valuable to his team and is going to need to keep his physical play up against Colorado and Utah.
If Kazemi continues to play the way he has, the Ducks have a good chance of taking the Pac-12 regular-season title.
2. The Return of Dominic Artis
Oregon freshman guard Dominic Artis. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Freshman guard Dominic Artis returned to the Oregon lineup last Thursday after missing nine games with a foot injury.
The Ducks went 1-3 after Artis' injury and struggled to show consistency on offense.
The offense had to continuously score points in the paint with their big men because backup point guard Johnathan Loyd was struggling to run the offense. Loyd as of late, though, has been playing his best basketball of the season.
Artis came off the bench in his return against Oregon State and went 2-for-2 from beyond the arc to give him six points in an 85-75 win.
What makes Artis so valuable to his team is his ability to make plays at the point-guard position, as well as make baskets inside or beyond the arc. He has the proven ability to be a game-changer, finds ways to get open and can make plays for his team when the game is on the line.
Artis has averaged 10.0 points per game this season and will be key in the Ducks winning the Pac-12 regular-season title.
3. Strong Guard Play from Johnathan Loyd
Junior guard Johnathan Loyd against Cal on Feb. 21. The Associated Press
Junior guard Johnathan Loyd has been at his best in the Ducks' last two games.
He's played well defensively the entire season, but his play on the offensive end has been impressive.
Loyd has been his scrappy and aggressive self as usual, but he's been a lot more composed running the offense.
Loyd has not been tentative shooting the ball and has had no problem driving the lane to lay it up.
He also has been more smooth when dribbling between defenders and is not turning the ball over like he had been earlier in Pac-12 conference play.
In Loyd's past two games against Stanford and Oregon State, he has averaged 13.5 points and six assists. He also only turned the ball over once in those two games.
With Loyd improving on a game-to-game basis, it makes Oregon even more dangerous down the stretch. Whether he starts or comes off the bench as the backup to Artis, him playing well is crucial to his team's success.
The Ducks also tend to play much better when Loyd becomes a threat to opposing teams.
4. The Oregon Frontcourt
Senior center Tony Woods against UCLA on Jan. 19. The Associated Press
Oregon's frontcourt has played a major role in the the Ducks' success this season.
Senior forward Arsalan Kazemi, as mentioned earlier, has been the leader in the frontcourt with his physical play on the glass, but three other players have made a heavy impact as well.
Singler is the floor leader of this Oregon squad and has averaged 11.5 points per game this season. He also has been impressive from the free-throw line by shooting 82.4 percent.
Singler can help run the offense, make big shots when he has to and get in on the rebounding game as well.
Woods is physical down low and has been a force to be reckoned with this season. He provides the Ducks with game-changing slam dunks and big blocks on the defensive end.
Woods looked stellar last Thursday against Oregon State, as he scored 16 points and recorded three blocks. Woods is averaging 9.7 points per game this season.
Emory has been on a roll and is in the discussion as the best sixth man in the Pac-12 right now.
He is dangerous when he goes to the rim and has the ability to make shots from the perimeter. In Emory's last five games, he has averaged 16.6 points and five rebounds. His strong play off the bench gives his team a nice boost when they need it.
With consistent play from the Oregon frontcourt against Colorado and Utah, the Ducks can take the title.
5. Scoring Big in the Second Half
Senior forward Carlos Emory against Colorado on Feb. 7.
Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Oregon has been notorious for starting off games slow. Against Stanford on Feb. 23, the Ducks were only up 30-26 at the half. They went on to score 47 points in the second half and ended up defeating the Cardinal handily 77-66.
Oregon had the game in control with eight minutes remaining in the game and Carlos Emory was red hot from the field. He dropped 17 of his 19 points in the second half.
Oregon did the same thing against in-state rival Oregon State five days later.
The Beavers seemed to be in upset mode and led 41-34 after the first half. The Ducks again went off in the second half and scored an impressive 51 points.
Emory, who only scored six points in the first half, had 15 points. Kazemi also got in on the action as well, scoring 13 of his 17 points in the second half. The Ducks ended up finishing the game shooting 50.9 percent from the field and won 85-75.
It would be ideal for Oregon to start their games off stronger, but if they go on scoring sprees like they have been in the second half, they are going to be a dangerous team.
Opponents are going to get worn out in the second half on both ends of the court and will have trouble keeping up on the scoreboard if the Ducks continue this trend.
With a player like Carlos Emory coming off the bench and Dominic Artis and Johnathan Loyd rotating back and forth at the point guard position, this Oregon squad appears to be in good shape come tournament time.
If Oregon can manage to shoot lights out in the second half against Colorado on Thursday, they will have a good chance of seeking revenge on the Buffs and taking the Pac-12 regular-season title.