No. 14 Arizona has score to settle with Oregon
Last year, Arizona traveled to Eugene to face Oregon in a top-15 Pac-12 showdown with national ranking implications.
What was supposed to be a battle of the top two teams in the Pac-12 turned into an onslaught. Oregon dismantled Arizona 85-58 and that win kicked off Oregon's journey to the Final Four.
A year later and the No. 14 Wildcats (22-6, 12-3 Pac-12) will get their chance at redemption in Eugene, this time against an Oregon team looking like a long shot for the NCAA Tournament.
"We didn't forget about that," Arizona guard Rawle Alkins said about last year's loss. "As long as we bring our A-game and we play hard, we can beat anybody in the country."
Arizona faces several off-the-court distractions.
Coach Sean Miller was named in the Yahoo! Sports college basketball corruption report. Miller is heard through FBI wiretaps offering $100,000 to an agent's assistant to ensure freshman Deandre Ayton signed with the Wildcats last year.
And guard Allonzo Trier, who played in that rout a year ago, might not be available Saturday for the Wildcats.
Trier has once again been suspended by the NCAA for testing positive for a banned substance. He missed the first 19 games last season after testing for the same banned substance that is still in his system, according to a statement released by the university.
Arizona is appealing the suspension.
If Trier is unavailable for the matchup with Oregon (18-10, 8-7), the Wildcats will turn toward Ayton.
Ayton, widely projected as a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, is averaging 19.6 points and 10.9 rebounds. Ayton is the prototypical big man for the new NBA, a player who can defend the rim and rebound yet also put the ball on the floor and create his own jump shot.
Along with his 18 double-doubles on the season, Ayton has emerged as a legitimate candidate not only for Pac-12 payer of the year but also national player of the year.
With Trier out and freshman Ira Lee unavailable to play, Arizona's typically deep bench has been thinned.
"We really needed our guys off the bench and they stepped up to the plate," Ayton said after Thursday's overtime victory against Oregon State.
Looking to take down Ayton and the Wildcats will be Oregon, led by point guard Payton Pritchard.
Pritchard leads four Ducks in double figures with 14.6 points per game and a team-high 4.9 assists per game. He's the catalyst for Oregon, often with the ball in his hands when the Ducks need a bucket.
Oregon is hanging on for dear life when it comes to its NCAA Tournament hopes and with no room for error, its second win over another Top 25 team in as many games would go a long way.
"We've still got a lot of season left," senior Elijah Brown (13.0 ppg) said. "We're just looking forward, trying to finish out as strong as we can. I think we've got a good team; like I've been saying all year, I think we can still make noise."