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Ducks look to stay on top with upset opportunity against No. 9 Arizona

The Oregon Ducks have a solo spot atop the Pac-12 Conference Standings. The Arizona Wildcats are currently ranked No. 9 in the Associated Press poll.

Which team needs to win on Saturday afternoon for this to be declared an upset?

While the obvious answer is Oregon — a team that hasn’t been ranked inside the top 25 all season long, and is currently sitting a little too close to the NCAA tournament bubble for comfort — it’s fair to look at Dana Altman’s squad this year and reasonably believe that they can hold their own at this level.

The Ducks are 14-5 through 19 games, with a 6-2 conference record. Contrarily, Arizona is 14-5 with a 5-3 conference record. The level of competition has not been the same, but nobody will look at you sideways for declaring that the Ducks and Wildcats belong on the same court Saturday afternoon.

It should also come as no surprise to anyone who has watched Pac-12 basketball over the last decade that in the final meeting between these two as conference foes, there is a lot at stake.

Since 2010, Arizona has won six conference titles, while Oregon has won four. The Wildcats have also won five Pac-12 tournaments in that time, while the Ducks have won three. In the last decade and change, no two teams have better held the role of “class of the conference” than these two schools, so it feels appropriate that they duke it out in the final meeting for the foreseeable future.

With a lot on the line, Altman knows that this game is going to be a physical one on Saturday afternoon in Eugene.

“They are big and strong inside, which makes it good that we have (N’Faly) Dante and Nate (Bittle) back to try and match some of that size,” Altman said on Thursday night after an 80-61 win over Arizona State. “So it will be a physical game and determine who communicates the best defensively because they can score.”

The need to perform well defensively is what should give Oregon fans and coaches the biggest reason for hesitance. So far this season, while the Ducks rank 2nd in the conference offensively, their defense comes in at 11th out west.

Altman has been quick to recite his favorite stat this past week as well, telling media members both on Tuesday after practice and on Thursday after the game that the team is 1-5 this year when allowing 80 points to be scored on them.

“You don’t have to be too smart to figure it out — that number’s too high,” Altman said.

So how do they go about making sure it doesn’t happen against a Wildcats team that averages 89 points per game?

“We’re going to have to communicate on the defensive end and rebounding margin; they really get on the boards. We’re going to have to do a great job there.”

The presence of Dante and Bittle will certainly help, but it’s going to take a team effort in Eugene. Should the Ducks be able to stifle Arizona, and assuming that the shots are falling offensively, there absolutely is a world where Altman walks away from his last-ever conference game against the Wildcats on Saturday evening with a win.

Will it be an upset? That’s yet to be determined.

Story originally appeared on Ducks Wire