Picked seventh in the Pac-12 Conference before the season began, Oregon arrives in the Bay Area this week as the surprise of the league, 7-0 and two games ahead of the crowd in the loss column.
For Stanford and Cal, underachievers through the first month of the conference schedule after being projected as top-four finishers, this looms as a make-or-break opportunity to climb into the race.
"Absolutely, you want to protect your home court," said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins, whose Cardinal (12-8, 3-4) will host the No. 10 Ducks (18-2) on Wednesday night. "They're playing at a high level. They're very confident, and it's got to be exciting for them."
Cal coach Mike Montgomery, whose Bears (11-8, 3-4) get their shot at the Ducks on Saturday afternoon, is hoping a return to Berkeley will spark his club. Cal has played just two Pac-12 home games compared with five on the road but has lost four times overall at Haas Pavilion this season.
"Theoretically, you're supposed to be better at home," he said. "To win at home is going to be critical for us. This is no exception to it."
Oregon coach Dana Altman is feeling no more comfortable than anyone else in the league. "It can change really quick," he said of the Ducks' place atop the standings. "Just a bad weekend can change everything."
Pac-12 Networks analyst Don MacLean, on the "Pac-12 Playbook" show this week, said the Ducks will be challenged in the Bay Area. "Stanford has enough that if Oregon doesn't play its game, Stanford will beat them," he said.
MacLean said the opportunity is also huge for Cal, which was picked third in the Pac-12 before the season but has struggled with depth issues. "If they lose both or win both, it really can set the tone for the rest of their conference season," MacLean said.
Oregon arrives without starting freshman point guard Dominic Artis, the onetime Salesian High (Richmond) star, who is out indefinitely with a foot injury.
"D.A. loves the game, and it will hurt him not to be able to go home and play," Altman said.
But the Ducks beat Washington without Artis, and their strength has been balance and experience. Already, they have beaten all three of the teams directly below them in the standings -- Arizona, UCLA and Arizona State -- and they don't play those teams again.
UCLA coach Ben Howland said he's concerned only with his own team, but he'd be thrilled if someone hands Oregon a loss. "Everybody wants to be the first one to knock them off," he said.
That list starts with Stanford and Cal.
The Spartans began the season with just eight healthy players on their roster and have played the past four games with seven after freshman Jamiyla DeBoise suffered a knee injury.
Games likely aren't the hardest part for coach Tim La Kose, who must put assistant coaches on the floor during practice to create 5-on-5 situations.
The SJSU-LaTech game featured 56 personal fouls along with 55 turnovers and 55 field goals.
"Let's not jinx him," Dawkins said. "He can get going. His teammates get excited when he gets to shooting the ball like he did the other day."
With 689 career assists, Dellavedova is 11 shy of becoming just the third Bay Area Division I men's player to accumulate 700. The local record? Orlando Smart dished 902 assists for USF from 1991 through '94.
Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/CalBearsBANG.