Oregon is playing for the last spot in the Pac-10 tournament. Much depends on what Cal does, which is a game behind the Ducks. If Cal beats Washington State, and Oregon loses to UCLA, Cal would go to the conference tourney over Oregon (in the tiebreaker format, Cal's win over UCLA gives them an advantage).
So, Oregon does have some motivation in this game.
The problem is they don't have much defense.
The Ducks don't tend to get back in transition and are loose in their half-court D. UCLA took advantage of it in Eugene for their first truly all-around good win of the season January 2nd, 70-62.
The Bruins now look to have it rolling a bit. Their freshmen, particularly Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo, have matured to a point where they've been playing at a consistently high level. Afflalo in particular has stepped up in recent weeks, which has given UCLA that much-needed third offensive option behind Farmar and Dijon Thompson.
The game, again, will come down to defense. With Oregon not getting back on D well, UCLA will be looking to get some strong stops on defense to get the opportunity to score in transition.
Recently Thompson has been good at bouncing back in a game following one where he didn't play well. Thompson having a good offensive game today would go a really long way. It's senior day, so you'd think the senior Thompson would have his best game on today.
The Ducks are led in scoring by their lightning-quick point guard, Aaron Brooks. UCLA recently has been switching out Afflalo on the opponent's best scorer, so it will be interesting to see if they do it for at least a portion of the game today with Brooks.
Also a very intriguing matchup is with Oregon's freshman wing, Malik Hairston, who has had a strong second-half of the season and been their go-to scorer of late. Of course, as everyone knows, the McDonald's All-American Hairston almost came to UCLA, but opted for Oregon, who came to his recrutiment late.
Once Oregon's season went into the tank for the season, and once they lost 6-11 forward Ian Crosswhite, who was permanently kicked out of the program, Head Coach Ernie Kent quickly started dedicating more playing minutes to his youngest players. It was smart move since the more experience the younger guys get the more it will pay off next season and down the line. As a result, Oregon is as youthful and inexperienced as UCLA, if not more.
UCLA has so much on the line today. It needs a win to have a strong shot at third place in the conference and that "magical" 18th win of the season, which many feel is the benchmark for the NCAA tournament selection committee. With that weighing in the balance, and the resolve UCLA has shown lately, it's hard to imagine UCLA not being in this game. They could possibly lose if their offense has another off day, as it did Thursday, but expect UCLA to not let up against the Ducks today.