“Johnny and DA are both real competitive young men,” said Oregon coach Dana Altman. “And so they'll battle …
“Johnny is really quick. I think DA is quick.”
Artis, the starter, could be the wild card for Oregon. A freshman who seized the starting job — like Smart — from the season's outset, he was critical in the Ducks' 17-2 start to the season that resulted in a No. 10 national ranking on Jan. 28. Then a stress fracture in his foot sidelined him for five weeks, a period when Oregon stumbled to 5-4 stretch.
Loyd eventually stabilized things and was named Most Outstanding Player at last week's Pac-12 Tournament, won by Oregon. And Artis has since returned, restoring the combo to full strength.
“You've got to prepare for two guys who are going to play a lot of minutes,” said OSU coach Travis Ford. “They're similar in ways, and they're a lot different in ways. But they've got a pretty good combo there in two guys they can turn to.
“It seems like when one's not playing well, the other one steps in and plays extremely well.”
Combined, Artis and Loyd average 13.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 6.2 assists.
Smart, who doesn't figure to come off the floor much, averages 15.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists.
So, who's got the edge?
Smart clearly isn't backing down.
And Artis offers a nugget he considers a bonus — previous experience with Smart, during a clash of their two prominent prep programs, perhaps offsetting the shock factor many foes experience in a first-time run-in with Smart's physical style.
“I played against him, Phil Forte and their high school, down at their school,” said Artis, who starred for powerhouse Findlay Prep out of Nevada. “Definitely aware of all he creates for his team. A great leader.
“Big advantage for me, though, seeing it first hand, game planning around that, trying to keep him away from his strengths … that will definitely help a lot.”