Welcome to the 2016-17 Webfoot Awards, starring your favorite athletes from the University of Oregon. The writers at ATQ annually enable the fans an opportunity to vote for the best of Oregon athletics from the previous season.
Up first, we will nominate the elite Duck squads for the Best Team Award to be voted on by you, the fans. This will not be an easy task. Oregon has showcased some of the top teams from their individual sports this campaign. Choosing just one team as the best could not be more difficult in 2016-17. Good luck!
I had to place the men’s basketball team atop the list of nominees. They may never surpass the Women of Oregon, but they are my all-time favorite Duck team. Head coach Dana Altman has started a revolution.
Oregon men’s basketball concluded the greatest season in program history with a record of 33-6. Not to mention, the Ducks concluded their season at the Final Four in Arizona. UO lost by one point, 77-76, to the eventual champions, North Carolina.
The Ducks were on hallowed ground entering the season. Media outlets were projecting Oregon as their preseason No. 1 team. Sports Illustrated featured Chris Boucher and the Ducks. Some experts even projected Oregon to win it all in 2017.
UO was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament last year. However, they wanted more in 2016-17. With the departures of Elgin Cook and Dwayne Benjamin on the horizon, some questioned the Oregon depth. Open the curtain for Dillon Brooks.
The 2017 Pac-12 Player of the Year was on a mission this season. Brooks missed the start of the season following offseason surgery, which helped build confidence in others. Boucher, Jordan Bell, Tyler Dorsey, Payton Pritchard and Dylan Ennis stepped up in his absence.
However, the Canadian returned to play at an All-American level. In fact, three game-winning buzzer-beating triples could attest that there was nobody better under pressure than DB.
UO entered the season as the No. 4 ranked team. It was the highest ranking in program history. Oregon would continue to shatter records throughout the campaign.
The Ducks achieved their greatest win-streak in program history (17) this season. Unfortunately, the streak was snapped during a loss in Boulder, Colorado. Oregon exited the season with the nation’s longest home win-streak at 42 games.
Oregon won the Pac-12 regular season crown yet again in 2017. Following a conference campaign that saw the Ducks register a 16-2 record and back-to-back regular season titles, Oregon was awarded the No. 1 seed for the Pac-12 Tournament from Las Vegas. It was the first time an Oregon basketball team won consecutive championships.
In Arizona, the Ducks fell to the Wildcats during the Pac-12 Tournament final, 83-80. However, the crushing blow occurred the previous game against Cal when Boucher tore his ACL. The senior leader would be lost for the year, but that would not stop UO.
The No. 3 Ducks were placed in the Midwest Region following their sterling season. They cruised by No. 14 Iona in the first round. In the Round of 32, Oregon overcame an 11-point deficit in the second half to eliminate No. 11 Rhode Island.
UO was not content with just another Sweet 16 appearance, they wanted more. After dismissing Michigan with a slim victory, 69-68, Oregon set their focus to No. 1 Kansas.
Just 41 miles from Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, the Jayhawks were playing in a home game during their Elite Eight showdown vs the Ducks.
It mattered little as Oregon dominated from start to finish, winning by 14 points total, 74-60. Bell made one of the greatest impacts in tournament history. His 8-block performance will be talked about forever.
The Long Beach product averaged a double-double during his five tournament games, including leading all players in total rebounds (66). He was named the Midwest Region’s Most Outstanding Player.
With the monumental victory, UO made their first Final Four appearance in 77 years.
“We are getting into homes a lot easier. All coaches recognize the significance of going to the Final Four,” said Altman. “Winning a championship like the 1939 team did, those things are edged in stone. But a Final Four is pretty good too.”
Mr. March earned himself the legendary nickname after he scored 20 points or more in eight straight postseason games to conclude his college career. Dorsey, Bell and Ennis were instrumental down the home stretch of the season. Each Duck played a pivotal role in the success of the team.
At the end of the day, this was the greatest basketball team in Oregon history. Moving forward, every team will be compared to the 2016-17 unit that finished as the No. 4 team in the land after recording the highest win percentage in program history (.846). Their 33 wins were a program-best, as well.
This Duck team did more for the future of the program than maybe all three other teams on this list combined. Oregon basketball is building an elite brand and the 2016-17 team deserves most of the credit.
OUTDOOR TRACK & FIELD - WOMEN OF OREGON
Where do we possibly start with this team? Just days removed from winning the National Championship in outdoor, it’s hard to find a better team in any sport right now. We are talking about the ONLY women’s team in NCAA Track & Field Championship D-1 history to win the Triple Crown (Indoor, Outdoor, Cross Country) in a calendar year.
After an incredible weekend from the legendary Hayward Field came to a close, Oregon was trailing Georgia 62.2-54.5 with one event to go. Yet, it was the EVENT made for the Women of Oregon. They may rename the 4x400m to the Duck Relay. With 10 points and a first place finish, Oregon claimed a third national title (64.5-62.2) this year.
Their collection of talent was endless; Raevyn Rogers, Ariana Washington, Alaysha Johnson, Deajah Stevens, Brooke Feldmeier, Sasha Wallace, Katie Rainsberger and Elexis Guster to name a few.
“I’ll never get tired of hearing Magic,” said Stevens in comparing Eugene to the Olympics. “I love our fans. I love running here. I don’t compare Rio to nationals.”
Those same women destroyed the Indoor National Championship with a final score of 84 points. The next closest competitor, Georgia, finished 33 points (51) behind them in College Station, Texas. Not to mention, they won the cross country title (126-125) to start their binge of winning in 2016-17.
How do we classify these women? As one team, three teams and one sport, or three teams and three sports? To keep it simple, we will focus on the final piece of the winning puzzle, the outdoor team.
It’s rather difficult to look at any other team from any other sport that can match the overall dominance of their field like the Women of Oregon. Choose any particular season and you could argue that UO women’s team was the best overall squad in collegiate athletics.
The Oregon men took to the links this season in pursuit of back-to-back national titles. With a young team, the Ducks took the nation by surprise with an unprecedented finish to their campaign. They fell short of their goal by one spot, losing to Oklahoma in the 2017 Men’s Golf NCAA National Championship.
Oregon’s golfers finished the season seventh overall in points with 452 for the season. The Ducks advanced to the national championship after finishing in third place at regionals in Sugar Grove, Illinois.
A year after winning the 2016 national title against Texas in their own backyard at the Eugene Country Club, anything but another championship would be a disappointment. At the conclusion of the 2017 season, nobody was disappointed with second place.
“Just an incredible run for us. To get back to defend our title and get to this point is awesome,” said Oregon head coach Casey Martin. “We did come up short but it wasn't because we weren't scrapping or fighting. We were doing everything we could. Oklahoma played great. Congrats to them.”
In fact, the second place finish was the second-best finish in program history. Only the 2016 national championship conclusion was better. Oregon finished tied for third place in the 2010 and 2012 championship’s. The 1959 team finished in fourth place.
The Oregon men’s golf team has the heart of a champion and they exhibited that on a routine basis during the 2017 season. There is a huge difference between being the hunter vs the hunted.
Heading into a new campaign, Oregon was thought to be rebuilding. Additionally, the Ducks were no longer being overlooked by the competition.
However, UO golf would not go away without a fight. They followed their greatest season in school history one place shy of the exact same results. The Oregon men’s golf team has completely reshaped the collegiate golfing landscape. That is saying a great deal coming from a program that restarted their relevancy in 2010.
You can NOT have a Webfoot Award nomination party without the Oregon softball team. This season, the lady Ducks made their fourth appearance in the last six years at the Women’s College World Series.
With a primarily young team, most anticipated a rebuilding season for the Ducks. Just like the golf team, Oregon softball found motivation in being overlooked.
Head coach Mike White recruited a talented, young class of players that would thrive under pressure. He wanted a good start to the new season and the coach received it with the greatest beginning to a season in NCAA softball history (35-0). The Ducks did not lose their first postseason contest until Game 1 of the WCWS.
Oregon concluded their incredible season with a record of 54-8. Overall, the green and yellow finished as the No. 4 team in the nation, but concluded the WCWS in third place.
Following an opening-night loss to Pac-12 rival Washington, the Ducks refused to die with their collective back against the wall. Oregon went on to win two games in one day against the likes of Baylor and LSU.
“We want to see each other succeed,” said Kleist. “Every girl in this stadium wants to be the last one standing. We’re one step closer now.”
Leading 2-0 against eventual national champion Oklahoma entering the bottom of the fifth inning, the Ducks had an opportunity. Yet, the Sooners took advantage of UO mistakes with a 4-run rally in the frame. Oklahoma eliminated the Ducks, 4-2, in Oklahoma City and advanced the final against No. 1 Florida. OU won the series, 2-0.
Led by Nikki Udria, Oregon boasted a roster filled with talent. Jenna Lilley, Danica Mercado, Mia Camuso, Alexis Mack, Shannon Rhodes, Gwen Svekis and Megan Kleist helped guide Oregon softball to one of their greatest seasons in program history.
I can’t make any promises, but I definitely see the 2018 softball team at our annual award nominee party.
Make your vote count. ATQ will be hosting our annual Webfoot Award nominations all this week. We will have a different award vote each day, so stick around for the latest. The recipients depend on you for their hardware.
Webfoot Awards: Best Team?
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Women of Oregon - Outdoor Track & Field