It wasn’t a pretty ending, but then again, it wasn’t a pretty season.
Oregon sank a three-pointer to open the game and take the first lead, then fell completely flat as Texas A&M captured a lead they would never relinquish in a 75-60 final that sent the Ducks back to Eugene shaking their heads at what could have been.
After that first three-pointer fell, Oregon went 2-of-13 from beyond the arc for the remainder of the half, and found themselves in a 37-28 ditch at halftime.
That ditch became a quarry in the second half as the lead doubled and the Ducks were never able to really threaten after that.
As has been the case so many times this season, shooting went colder than a Canadian winter and once Oregon was down they couldn’t ever regain the lead. It was almost hard to believe that this was the same team that won 10-of-11 games at one point during the season and was considered a near lock for the NCAA Tournament.
Instead, a final record of 20-15 (11-9 in the Pac-12) and a second round NIT exit is what the Ducks have to show for 2021-22.
In seasons past, it was common for Men’s Basketball to finish the season on a hot streak, playing their best as February progressed to March. A primary reason for that seemed to be that the team would buy into head coach Dana Altman’s strategies, and consequently, the team chemistry would peak.
This particular group just never achieved that cohesion. So, what’s next?
Suffice to say, there will be some serious firepower incoming for next season. Consensus 5-star Center Kel’El Ware, 5-star Point Guard Dior Johnson, and swingman Tyrone Williams, the leading scorer in Junior College last season, are all on their way.
Starters Quincy Guerrier, De’Vion Harmon, and N’Faly Dante, as well as role bench players Franck Kepnang and Rivaldo Soares, are all likely returns.
The real question is team staple Will Richardson. Because of the pandemic last year, Richardson has an additional year of eligibility. Altman has finally shed some light on what has been ailing the Senior Guard the past few weeks, and it turns out it wasn’t a concussion after all, it was mono.
With Richardson at his best in midseason, Oregon was a force to be reckoned with. For Johnson, Richardson could be a great mentor. But that all depends on what he decides to do moving forward. After scoring over 1,000 points in his Oregon tenure and earning All-Conference accolades, it would certainly be understandable if Richardson decides he is ready to follow Peyton Prichard and Chris Duarte to the NBA.
There is, however, always the possibility that after the disappointing ending to the season, he feels there is unfinished business left to attend to.
Either way, the success of this team next season will not ride on how they look on paper (which will be stacked). It will be on how they learn and buy into Altman’s coaching. Altman has already proven multiple times over the last decade he can coach like a master. The question will be, are the players ready to be his students?