Huge game for NCAA Tournament bubble team Oregon on Sunday afternoon as a Ducks upset of No. 9 Utah would be a huge boost to their resume in the committee's eyes. The Utes opened as a 6-point favorites on BetOnline's NCAA basketball odds.
Ducks Need Help for NCAA Bid
In the most recent ESPN projection of the field of 68, Oregon (19-8, 9-5 Pac-12) was out, one of the first four out along with Purdue, Davidson (Davidson?) and Tulsa. The Pac-12 has four teams in: Arizona, Utah, UCLA and Stanford, although the Bruins and Cardinal are on the bubble too.
The Ducks currently have an RPI of 60, with two wins over Top-50 RPI teams: Dec. 13 at a neutral site against Illinois and Jan. 24 at home against UCLA. They have five losses against Top-50 teams, including twice to Arizona. Also of concern is that 11 of Oregon's 19 wins are against clubs at 100 or higher in the RPI and another is against a non-Division I team. Also bad news after this game is all three Oregon games are on the road: California, Stanford and Oregon State. Six of the Ducks' eight losses are in true road games.
Oregon has won five of six and beat a team it needed to on Wednesday in a 73-60 home win over Colorado. That improved Oregon to 17-0 when shooting better from the field than the opponent and 13-0 holding the opposition below 70 points. The Ducks were comfortably ahead by 20 before the Buffs closed to within five with four minutes left. However, on the next Oregon possession the Ducks grabbed a couple of offensive rebounds off misses and it led to a Dillon Brooks 3-pointer and 66-58 lead. The pretty much clinched it. Senior guard Joseph Young led Oregon with 23 points. He leads the conference in scoring at 20.0 points per game. Young, who started his career at Houston, is one of just six active players in NCAA Division I to have scored 2,000 career points.
This is Oregon's final home game of the season (barring hosting in a lesser postseason tournament like the NIT). The Ducks' national runner-up football team will be honored at halftime. UO is 12-14 against the NCAA basketball odds this season and 12-13 'over/under.'
Utes Eyeing Pac-12 Title
No. 9 Utah (21-4, 11-2) will make its first NCAA Basketball Tournament since 2009. The Utes still have plenty to play for as they are tied with Arizona atop the Pac-12 standings entering Saturday (Arizona facing UCLA). The Cats won the first meeting with Utah, but they play again Feb. 28 in Salt Lake City. It's conceivable that Utah could climb as high as a No. 2 seed for the Big Dance but a No. 1 is out of reach. Most have the Utes as a No. 3 right now.
The Utes extended their winning streak to five with an ugly 47-37 win at Oregon State on Thursday, the Beavers' first home loss of the season. That defensive dominance is no shock as Utah ranks No. 9 nationally in points allowed at 55.6 per game. The Utes are one of only three Division I teams to have not allowed an opponent to score more than 72 points yet.
Senior guard Delon Wright, one of the best players in the country, had nine points, nine rebounds and five assists for the Utes against OSU. He has a chance to be Pac-12 Player of the Year and is a finalist for the Wooden Award, Oscar Robertson Award, Naismith Award and the Bob Cousy Award, which goes to the top point guard in the country. Wright, who nearly declared for last year's draft before being talked out of it by Coach Larry Krystkowiak, is averaging 14.1 points, 5.4 assists and 4.7 rebounds.
While Wright is a borderline first-round pick in this year's NBA Draft, Austrian freshman center Jakob Poeltl is a likely lottery choice if he declares. Poeltl, who was leaning toward attending Cal until Coach Mike Montgomery retired, is averaging 8.9 points (67.7 percent shooting), 7.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in just 23.4 minutes. He's a project, for sure, but the talent is there. Only two other players in Utah history have averaged over 9.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and blocked 40 shots as a freshman: Andrew Bogut and Keith Van Horn. Bogut went No. 1 overall in the draft and Van Horn No. 2.
Utah is 17-6-1 against the spread this season and 12-10-1 'over/under' at sportsbooks. This is the only scheduled meeting between Utah and Oregon. The Ducks won last season's lone matchup, 70-68 in OT in Salt Lake City, and we're going to back them today with out free college basketball picks.
NCAA Basketball Free Pick: Take desperate Oregon +6 at Pinnacle. The Ducks are 5-1 ATS in their past six at home vs. teams with a winning record. The home team has covered four of the past five meetings.