How Sweet it Was
Picked to finish seventh in the Pac-12 this season, one could say the Oregon Ducks men’s basketball overachieved. But if you were to really look at the talent on their roster and in their coaching ranks that they had prior to the start of the 2012-2013 college basketball season, you may now come to the conclusion that Oregon actually met all of their expectations and came away disappointed in the end.
Shocking as that may be to some, Oregon’s Sweet 16 run this year and Pac-12 Tournament Championship–their first since 2008–should not have been a surprise at all, especially with the way the program was already upwardly trending.
Coming off a year that saw them make an appearance in the NIT after winning the CBI the previous year, Oregon was looking for their veterans to prove themselves while hoping new additions helped to forward the momentum the team had been generating. With E.J. Singler, Carlos Emory, Johnathan Loyd, and Tony Woods leading the veteran crew for Oregon, the Ducks also added Arsalan Kazemi–a transfer from Rice–and standout freshmen Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis to their roster. Though there was clearly plenty of potential talent on the roster, many were still unsure about how the team would gel together and play against what was expected to be a stout Pac-12 Conference.
As it would play out over the course of the season, the Ducks became quite the surprise despite a little bit of faltering towards the end of conference play. Starting off the season with an impressive mark in out of conference play and then beginning Pac-12 action with seven straight victories–two of which were over then-No. 4 Arizona and then-No. 24 UCLA–Oregon climbed the polls all the way to No. 10 in the nation.
After having some of their momentum taken away due to an injury to Artis that sidelined him for nine games, the Ducks capped their season by winning the Pac-12 Tournament Championship as well as upsetting both Oklahoma State and St. Louis in the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament en route to one of their best seasons in recent history.
Finishing with a record of 28-9, this season marked the third consecutive season that the Ducks have racked up 20 wins in a season, an impressive mark when you consider the fact that Altman has only been at Oregon for three years.
Not wanting to yet let go of what was a remarkable run, here is what was the 2012-2013 Oregon Ducks men’s basketball season.
Out of Conference Play
As mentioned previously, Oregon started out their season with an impressive non-conference mark of 11-2 with decent wins over Vanderbilt and then-No. 18 UNLV. Arguably their most impressive win of their non-conference schedule, the Ducks won on the road against a UNLV team that had been virtually unstoppable on their home court. The win shed light on what Oregon could become during the season and gave them their initial burst of confidence in the year.
Though they would lose their next game to then-No. 22 Cincinnati, Oregon’s non-conference play was very impressive, save for a loss against UTEP in triple-overtime.
The Ducks came into conference play feeling good and on the brink of breaking the top 25. And after they downed Arizona and UCLA en route to a 7-0 start in Pac-12 play, Oregon found themselves ranked as the No. 10 program in the nation.
Using Dotson and Kazemi to spark their run, there was a portion of time when the Ducks looked as though they would trample over the rest of the Pac-12 en route to their first regular season title since 2002. That would not be so, however, as Artis’ foot injury sidelined him for nine straight games–a span in which Oregon would go 4-5 and slip back in the rankings.
But despite his loss the Ducks were still in contention for the Pac-12 title come the end of the season. After UCLA lost a surprising game to Washington State, Oregon was riding high and needed only to win one of its last two games to at least share the conference title. Heading on the road to Colorado and Utah, the Ducks dropped both contests and saw the Bruins claim a title that many believe the Ducks let slip away.
Entering as the No. 3 seed in the 2013 Pac-12 Basketball Tournament, the Ducks squared off against Washington for the third time of the year and downed their rivals in overtime for a complete season sweep, advancing them to the next round and establishing supremacy over the Dawgs. Oregon then thwarted a Utah team looking to make a statement in the tournament fairly easily, destroying the Utes’ hopes of becoming relevant in the Pac-12 basketball scene.
The Ducks would then go on to take on the Bruins in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship and came away with an exciting and decisive victory that saw Johnathan Loyd impress in front of his hometown crowd and earn MVP honors. Oregon’s streak in the Pac-12 Tournament resulted in their first tournament championship since 2008 and gave them a fair bit of momentum heading into the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Oregon should never have been selected as a No. 12 seed. But, though this drew the ire of Oregon supporters around the nation (myself included), their low seed turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Ducks.
Playing with a little more edge and a sense of redemption hovering around the squad, the Ducks dropped five-seed Oklahoma State and four-seed St. Louis in games where Oregon truly showcased their potential. Though they were sloppy at times, key three-point shooting by Dotson and the rest of the Oregon squad paved the way for two upsets and a shot at Louisville in the Sweet 16.
Unfortunately for the Ducks, sloppy play early on in their contest against the Cardinals would end their season, as the Ducks were ousted from the tournament in the Sweet 16 after a great finish to their 2012-2013 campaign. Though they lost by just eight points, Oregon could not seem to put together the full streak that they needed to in order to get back into the game. Down by as much as 16 points at times in the contest, Oregon kept battling back to the point where they were down by just 10 to 9 points but could not find a way to break that margin.
Player of the Year
There are a few players on Oregon’s squad that could easily be selected as the Ducks’ top player from the 2012-2013 season. That being said, if it were not for Arsalan Kazemi dominating the boards and proving to the college basketball nation that he has a plethora of talent, the Ducks would not have been able to make the kind of run that they did over the course of the season.
A transfer from Rice, Kazemi was critical in giving the Ducks the inside presence that they so desperately needed when heading into the season. The native of Iran also helped give Oregon critical momentum during stretch runs of the season, especially with his outstanding rebounding the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments.
Though he was a Duck for just one season, many will always remember him as one of the biggest players on Oregon’s 2012-2013 college basketball team.
The future for Oregon right now is a little uncertain despite some very talented players who will remain with the program. Obviously the Ducks will likely keep Loyd, Dotson, and Artis along with rising star Ben Carter on the roster in future years, but the absence of Kazemi, Woods, Emory, and Singler next year will be huge.
With both of their big men heading out of the program, Oregon will need Carter to continue to build balance with Waverly Austin if the Ducks are going to have any chance at being the kind of team they were this year.
That being said, Oregon as a basketball program is looking as though they will continue their upwards trend from now on. Now that the Ducks have had an extremely successful season that saw them reach the Sweet 16, a great coach in Dana Altman, and an outstanding basketball facility, Oregon has everything it needs to start making its fans remember how awesome basketball was to watch in Eugene for many years.