EUGENE — Oregon is hitting its stride at exactly the right time and the next week will go a long way to determining where the Ducks are seeded in the NCAA Tournament.
After a three-game win streak, Oregon (12-4, 7-3 Pac-12) is No. 46 in NET, up from 58 before the wins over Washington, Arizona State and Arizona.
Once Eric Williams Jr. is back from a minor knee injury the Ducks will be at full strength and the core group that will carry them is clear.
Being in mid-season form heading into the home stretch is ideal and comes at the most pivotal week of the season for UO.
Colorado (16-6, 10-5 Pac-12) is the highest ranked team (NET 20) remaining on Oregon’s schedule — unless the games with USC and UCLA are rescheduled — and will be the best win of the season if the Ducks beat the Buffaloes Thursday night (8 p.m., ESPN2).
Next week’s game at Stanford (NET 57) is also in Quadrant 1, making the three-game span over seven days the most pivotal to Oregon’s season.
In terms of teams Oregon would prefer to win, it goes without saying that Seton Hall (NET 41) and Missouri (NET 43) staying in Q1 is vital. Utah (NET 81) isn’t far from sliding up but has to beat Oregon State to stand any chance of doing so. Cal (NET 168) could move up from Quadrant 4 and what’s essentially a meaningless win but the Bears must beat Washington and preferably need to beat Washington State to boost their numbers.
Oregon resume as of Feb. 17
Quadrant 1: 2-2 | Quadrant 2: 3-0 | Quadrant 3: 3-2 | Quadrant 4: 4-0
Strength of schedule: 104 | Non-conference strength of schedule: 213
— Best win: The win over Seton Hall (NET 41) in Omaha is holding up well but the Pirates are not far from dropping to Quadrant 2.
— Worst loss: The Oregon State loss (NET 136) was never going to look good on paper. It’s loaded with caveats because of player availability and coming between two pauses for the Ducks, but it’s still a Quadrant 3 defeat.
— Biggest opportunities: By far the biggest game left on the schedule is against Colorado (NET 20). Next week’s game at Stanford (NET 57) is also in Quadrant 1 and if the games with the LA schools are rescheduled then USC is the highest ranked Pac-12 team.
— Can’t lose: Next week’s game against Cal (NET 168) must be a win, otherwise it’s the worst loss of UO’s season.