Oregon men’s basketball sets its sights on its toughest opponent yet

Senior forward Carlos Emory (33) attempts a 360 jam in the dunk contest held between four players on the Duck's men's basketball team during Matt Knight Madness. (Nate Barrett/Emerald)

Senior forward Carlos Emory (33) attempts a 360 jam in the dunk contest held between four players on the Duck's men's basketball team during Matt Knight Madness. (Nate Barrett/Emerald)

Posted by Aubrey Wieber on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 11:46 am.

Oregon men’s basketball, hot off a Civil War win, get ready to take on the state of Arizona this week with games against fourth-ranked Arizona on Thursday and Arizona State on Sunday. The game is especially hyped due to the Ducks remaining unranked despite an impressive 12-2 record with wins over UNLV, Oregon State and Nebraska.

Handing Arizona their first loss would all but guarantee a ranking come Sunday night, as long as the Ducks take care of business on Sunday, but it’ll be tough. Arizona boasts talented and experienced bigs and incredible guard play with senior guard Mark Lyons.

“Obviously at 14-0 they’ve won some games,” head coach Dana Altman said of the Wildcats’ record. “And Arizona State is off to a great start, so it’s going to be a challenging weekend for us, one that I think our team will be excited about. I know I am.”

The game against Arizona will present a unique opportunity as they will be the highest-ranked team to ever step into Matthew Knight Arena, but is also a team that has shown weakness lately. Their last three games — against #17 San Diego State, Colorado and Utah — were all close games.

Arizona beat SDSU 68-67, then won against Colorado with help from a controversial call, which sent the game into overtime, allowing the Wildcats an opportunity to win. In their most recent game, against Utah, Arizona squeaked out a 60-57 win.

“This is the highest-ranked team to come in the building,” junior guard Johnathan Loyd said. “It’s the start of the Pac-12, right in the beginning, and they are undefeated so, being able to give them their first loss, that will be nice.”

Due to the size advantage inside for Arizona, Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi’s rebounding will be crucial. Arizona has enjoyed a plus ten margin in rebounding on the season. Kazemi, who has played against Arizona multiple times while at Rice, is aware that his skill set will be needed against the Wildcats. His 9.8 rebounds per game are nearly double that of any other player on the Oregon roster and will become even more crucial against a team like Arizona.

“This game is very important for us,” Kazemi said. “Arizona is a great team. I have played them, they never quit playing and always play hard. We have to get after it right away.”

The games against Arizona and Arizona State will play a big role in filling out the hierarchy of the Pac-12, as well as the possibility of a ranking for Oregon. And although it’s only early January, these games will factor in NCAA tournament seeding.