The Mighty Ducks
The last time that the Oregon Ducks name was relevant in the NCAA water cooler talks, Aaron Brooks was wearing the green and yellow and the team reached the Elite Eight of the 2007 March Madness tournament.
While four years does not seem like a long time, in basketball circles, with coaching jobs on the line and prized recruits on the radar, it could feel like a lifetime.
Oh sure, there was last year’s CBI championship, but a true NCAA fan would compare that to leaving the club when the lights come on with the only girl remaining (ok, maybe not that bad, but you know what I’m getting at). The positives out of the CBI experience?
The team finished the 2010-11 season with a winning record after going 5-1 in the CBI to finish the year 21-18.
For new head coach Dana Altman, it was a step in the right direction after he replaced Ernie Kent and his thirteen years as the lead Duck.
So where does the team go from here? Sure, they will be able to hang a CBI banner this season, but fans, alumni and players want more than to be the best of the worst. While the loss of big man Jovan Catron hurts the Ducks inside, the addition of freshman shooting guard stud Jabari Brown.
A top recruit on many of the scouting reports, the signing of Brown may help lead the next wave of talent into the Matthew Knight Arena.
The future may lie on Brown’s shoulders, but the present success will be the result of a collective team effort paced by newcomer Tony Woods in the paint, E.J. Singler and Canadian Olu Ashaoluon the wings and a pair of steady but not spectacular point guards in Garrett Sim and Johnathan Loyd.
Previous Ducks teams lived and died on the defensive end as a result of their zone defense and lack of depth, whereas this year with multiple players at almost every position, the opportunity for a more man to man tactic will be readily available, as they look to put pressure on their opponents from the jump.
Offensively, only Singler is the one carryover from last year to post double digits in the scoring column, the additions of Brown and Ashaolu will certainly require opposing defenses to remain honest.
The addition of Woods and Ashaolu will allow Sim and fellow senior Tyrone Nared the opportunity to spot up from downtown.
While the Ducks have a good shot at returning to the main stage of the March tournaments, and an outside opportunity of dethroning the UW Huskies as the Northwest’s top team in the Pac 12 this season, the ball looks like it could continue to roll next season with an impressive list of potential recruits who appear to be attracted to the West Coast.
Topping the list is Canadian forward Anthony Bennett, ranked in the top ten of the 2012 incomers and point guard Dominic Artis, a point guard who could fill the spot long since needed since Brooks left.
Hometown big man, Landen Lucas (Portland) is also on the radar for Coach Altman next season, keeping the Northwest talent in the Northwest and continuing to improve his roster at the same time.
For my Pac 12 preview, I had the Ducks finishing 5th in the conference just behind the Dawgs, with both teams moving on in March.
While I don’t see Oregon playing deep into the Dance (probably one and done), the pieces are starting to fall into place for the folks in Eugene, who have waited a long time for another NCAA championship.