Observations: Oregon’s Dana Altman puts on a clinic in win at Arizona

The Wildcats started out Thursday’s game against the Ducks with more ferocity than Mike Tyson had when he knocked out Michael Spinks in 91 seconds in 1988.

But unlike Spinks, the Ducks were able to absorb an early bevy of blows.

Arizona made 15 of its first 16 shots and built an early 28-16 lead before Oregon came back and earned a thrilling 83-75 win on the road.

The victory now gives the Ducks a full two-game lead over the Wildcats in the Pac-12 standings and the triumph was a result of Altman’s flawlessness with his team’s offense.

Oregon scored 83 points, shot 51.6 percent from the field, and had just six turnovers on the road against a team that had won 49 straight home games — that’s amazing.

Altman doesn’t get the same attention as some of the more brilliant offensive minds in the sport, but his performance on Thursday night would have made Mike D’Antoni envious. The veteran head coach got his best players clean looks at the basket and regularly allowed his offense to flourish against Arizona’s “pack line” approach, which forces the opponent to go over the top of its defense and make jump shots.

This writer has written in this space for weeks that the Ducks looked like the Pac-12’s best team and they proved that by beating the Wildcats in Tucson.

Oregon had five players score in double-figures and will next face Arizona State in Tempe on Sunday.

Rasheed Sulaimon is the X-Factor for Maryland

The fifth-year transfer takes the Terps to another level when he’s a threat to score the basketball consistently and that’s just what he did in Thursday night’s win over Iowa.

Sulaimon scored 17 points on 11 shots against the Hawkeyes and immediately put pressure on the defense by his early willingness to attack.

Maryland is 10-1 in games when Sulaimon scores in double-figures and its margin of victory in those victories is 16.4 points.

X-Factor?

You better believe it.

The Terps next travel to Columbus to face Ohio State on Sunday with a 1 p.m. ET tipoff on CBS.

The Pac-12 is the most competitive conference in the country

That doesn’t mean that it’s the best league or has the most teams that are going to be capable of reaching a Final Four, but it does mean that every single night the programs in this conference are going to be in for a dog fight.

Oregon and Washington are both currently tied atop the Pac-12 standings with 6-2 records in league play, but after that, there are eight separate teams that are all within one game of each other.

UCLA is currently in ninth place with a 3-5 mark in conference play, but the Bruins have already shown that they’re capable by beating both Kentucky and Arizona at home in addition to winning at Gonzaga.

Don’t be surprised if as many as seven teams wind up representing the Pac-12 in the NCAA Tournament.

This just in

  • Florida’s Justin Leon (concussion) is questionable for Saturday’s game against West Virginia, Mike White told CBS Sports.
  • Cincinnati’s Shaquille Thomas (foot) will undergo X-rays on Friday, Mick Cronin told CBS Sports. Thomas was injured in Thursday’s win at UConn.
  • Colorado’s Tad Boyle told CBS Sports that nothing is official, but he doesn’t see Xavier Johnson (achilles) playing this season.
Oregon’s Dana Altman had things rolling on Thursday. (USATSI)

This and That

  • College basketball’s best player takes on college basketball’s best NBA prospect on Saturday when Buddy Hield and Oklahoma invade Baton Rouge to do battle with LSU and Ben Simmons as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge. If you’re not looking forward to this game, then you’re pretty much admitting you hate fun.
  • Louisville has two major opportunities to gain national traction in its next two games. The Cardinals host Virginia (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET on CBS) and North Carolina back-to-back over the next four days and can earn sole possession of first place in the ACC if they win both games. Rick Pitino’s squad is currently 17-3 overall and 6-1 in conference play.
  • Miami is only giving up an average of 62.4 points in seven ACC games. There are a lot of reasons to like the Hurricanes this season, but one of the biggest is the way that they defend. Jim Larranaga’s squad is 16-3 overall and next travels to NC State on Saturday.
  • Saturday’s game between Iowa State and Texas A&M has a real fascinating story line: Cyclones head coach Steve Prohm was an assistant under Aggies head coach Billy Kennedy when Kennedy was at Murray State. Think the schedule makers had something in mind when they put these two programs together?
  • Brad Brownell has Clemson at 6-2 in ACC play and the Tigers don’t have a true home-court advantage. This guy has a real chance to be the conference’s coach of the year if the Tigers end up in the NCAA Tournament. Clemson next travels to Florida State on Saturday.
  • Georgia’s J.J. Frazier has quietly developed into one of the best guards in the SEC. The nifty southpaw is averaging 16.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.0 assists while shooting 41.1 percent from three-point range. Frazier averaged 9.5 points last season as a sophomore. He’s had 26 in each of the Bulldogs’ last two games.
  • Phil Martelli quietly has Saint Joseph’s at 17-3 overall heading into Saturday’s game at Rhode Island (6 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network). The Hawks have won 12 of their last 13 games and boast the Atlantic 10’s best one-two punch in DeAndre Bembry and Isaiah Miles. It will be interesting to see how this team deals with the Rams’ high octane back court of Jarvis Garrett and Jared Terrell, who combined for 41 points in Wednesday night’s win over Fordham.
  • Wichita State freshman Markis McDuffie has developed into a real weapon for the Shockers off the bench. The 6-8 forward is averaging 10.2 points over his last five games and can add real offensive pop in reserve. You will hear this name more than a few times in the month of March.
  • UNLV is averaging 83.2 points in the five games since Todd Simon took over as interim head coach. The Runnin’ Rebels are 4-1 in that span and will next host San Diego State on Saturday (8 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network). The Aztecs are currently 8-0 in Mountain West play.

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