Oregon Men’s Basketball (23-13, 10-8) ended the season with a second-round loss to Marquette in the NIT Tournament. After a year removed from a Final Four appearance, optimism surrounded this year’s squad with expectations of a fifth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Instead, the Ducks could not consistency throughout conference play, ending chances of making the big dance.
Oregon did show capabilities of being contenders for the Pac-12 after scoring victories against Arizona State (twice) and Arizona. The Ducks were never out of contests during conference play as games would come down to the wire. To be fair, the Sun Devils were overrated this season after going undefeated in non-conference play. Wins against Xavier and Kansas may have been impressive, but the Sun Devils fell flat.
A win at home against Washington was significant as the Ducks held the Huskies to only 40 points. The total was the fewest the Ducks have allowed in a game since moving into Matthew Knight Arena.
The Ducks’ Civil War victory at home against Oregon State stands out in how Oregon won the game. Oregon controlled the pace of the game and never appeared rattled after the Beavers made the game close in the second half. Payton Pritchard was effective in driving the lanes and finding open players. Elijah Brown factored heavily in the game and found his shooting touch.
Pritchard can put up points, but his prowess as the floor general for the Ducks is when he is at his best. After the game, coach Dana Altman stressed how critical the Ducks must play with a sense of urgency. The second half of conference play was at hand, an area where the Ducks thrive under Altman before March Madness.
Kenny Wooten throwing a block party provided some great highlights, particularly in the Pac-12 Tournament. Wooten’s defensive stand helped the Ducks advance to the tournament semifinals.
Oregon’s sense of urgency never came to fruition this season. An identity crisis with this year’s team became apparent throughout the season. The Ducks just could not find a way to play consistently under Altman’s system.
The dagger to Oregon’s NCAA Tournament bid came at the hands of USC and UCLA on the road. Both games were must-win situations as Oregon was coming off a sweep of the Washington schools at home. Instead, the Ducks suffered a mental breakdown in the final seconds, losing against the Trojans. An overtime loss to the Bruins capped a disappointing performance in Los Angeles.
The loss at Stanford is a head-scratcher. Stanford barely squeaked out a win against lowly Washington State but somehow ran away against the Ducks at Maples Pavilion. In the past, the Bay Area is often difficult for Oregon, and the Cardinal made the Ducks pay the price.
Elijah Brown did not produce as Coach Altman would have wanted from the graduate transfer. Brown averaged 25 points per game in conference play at New Mexico but just could not string offensive production which could have helped the Ducks close out games.
MVP: Paul White
Coach Altman is successful in the graduate transfer market. The senior leadership from Paul White and his role off the bench impacted the Ducks. White often provided an offensive spark to help the Ducks find a rhythm.
In a transition year with young players, White provided stable leadership to help the Ducks stay focused on the court. White finished with a career-high 19 points in the loss against Marquette.
Oregon is perhaps bringing in a freshmen class with the firepower to be back in the Final Four potentially. The Ducks will be serious contenders for the Pac-12 and have the athleticism to control the tempo of games. With the uncertainty surrounding Arizona, do not be surprised if Oregon is projected to finish on top in preseason polls for the conference.
Troy Brown is the x-factor should he decide to stay or declare for the NBA Draft. Another year in Eugene could be in his best interest. Tyler Dorsey, Jordan Bell, and Dillon Brooks all could have departed after losing in the Elite Eight to Oklahoma. Instead, all three came back and almost made the NCAA Championship.
Brown could stay one more season and improve his draft stock. He showed his capabilities early in the season but could not elevate his game against conference opponents.
The overall Pac-12 play is one to forget. With Arizona getting the automatic berth, the committee chose poorly in allowing Arizona State and UCLA to get seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
Arizona rightfully deserved to lose against Buffalo as coach Sean Miller made no adjustments in the second half. Quite honestly, the Wildcats never seem to make changes in games.
The hype must not have left the eyes of the selection committee after ASU scored wins against Xavier and Kansas. The Sun Devils never proved they were legitimate contenders after an uninspiring display against Pac-12 teams. A first-round exit in the conference tournament should have ended any hopes but somehow squeaked in.
Hopefully, the Pac-12 can produce better contenders for the 2018-19 campaign. Expect the Ducks to be in the mix.