The final year of college basketball in the Pac-12 Conference has not always produced the highest quality product on the court, but it has not fallen short in the drama department. Just three games separate third place from tenth place and seeding becomes ever-important with the conference tournament just two weeks away. Arizona is the clear favorite, but any number of teams will feel they have a shot to earn the Pac-12's final auto-bid to the NCAA Tournament — including Oregon.

The Ducks are 18-9 with a 10-6 record in conference play but will need to show an improvement in form in the coming weeks if it wants to earn an unlikely NCAA Tournament bid. Despite these concerns, here is why Oregon is a sleeper team in the Pac-12 Tournament.

Avoiding Arizona until the championship game

While the Arizona Wildcats are not unbeatable as some might believe (as shown by Washington State), it has still taken something special to defeat Tommy Lloyd's team this season. Stanford needed to shoot a blistering 16-25 from deep to beat the Wildcats (with Arizona going 7-26) while Oregon State had 12 made threes to Arizona's three in an upset win at the end of January. The Pac-12 leaders are the only team in the conference currently in the top 30 NET Rankings (4th) while offering a top 15 offense and defense according to KenPom.

Oregon lost by nine points at home to Arizona a month ago in a game that was never really close in the second half. The teams face off once more in Tuscon on the penultimate weekend of the Pac-12 campaign. But as the likely number-three seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, the Ducks would not have to play #1 Arizona until the conference championship game. Oregon's most difficult opponent would be Washington State, a team it beat earlier in the year. A quarterfinal matchup against Utah, Cal, or Arizona State will not frighten the Ducks too much either.

Matchups are key come March and Oregon would benefit from being on the opposite side of the bracket as Arizona.

Must win to get in

At one point this season, the Oregon Ducks were firmly in the NCAA Tournament. Dana Altmann's team was 13-3 and 5-0 in Pac-12 play — including Quad I road wins over Washington and Washington State. But since star big man N'Faly Dante returned on January 13 after missing the previous 14 games with an injury, the Ducks have been just 6-6. Four of these losses came on the road while the pair of home defeats were against the top two teams in the league (Arizona and Washington State).

Now, the Ducks are not even listed among the next four teams out in most bracket projections. KenPom and NET Rankings around 60 plus a 2-4 record in Quad I games does not help Oregon's quest for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. With the regular season winding down, it appears to be auto-bid or bust for Oregon this year.

With the extra motivation of something to play for in Las Vegas, expect the Ducks to come out firing in the Pac-12 Tournament.

Balanced team with no major weaknesses

The Ducks will not blow anyone away in any facet of the game, but that lack of a true strength (or weakness) could be its advantage come March. Eight regulars average at least seven points per game, but none average more than 15 PPG. Oregon is 63rd in ADJO and 71st in ADJD per KenPom and ranks between 5oth and 215th in every notable statistical category per Bart Torvik.

With no true weakness to exploit or strengths to take away, Oregon has been adept at staying in games. Just three of Oregon's 16 conference games thus far have been settled by 10 or more points, cementing this team's status as a squad that sticks around in every contest. While Oregon does not have many impressive wins, they will be a tough team to beat come March.