oregon sports

McArthur to Matthew: The evolution of Oregon basketball

Past, Present, and Future of Duck Hoops

When one thinks of NCAA Mens Basketball Championships, one generally does not think of the Oregon Ducks.

Yet, there the Ducks are; etched in history as the first ever NCAA Mens Basketball National Champions in 1939.

Since that first title, Oregon has spent a lot of time fluctuating between being very good and very bad.

Though most programs do seem to experience this same pattern, this pattern has not been harder than it has been on the Men of Oregon.

In the beginning, there seemed to be so much hope, so much promise that the Ducks would establish themselves as a basketball powerhouse. And yet, after the 1939 National Championship, the Ducks were only able to win 2 more Pacific Coast Conference titles until they won the Pac-10 Conference title in 2001-2002.

Seeking to build upon the momentum of their first Pac-10 Conference title, then-head coach Ernie Kent instilled a new basketball mentality across the University campus: an attitude of winning.

Under Kent, the Duck Basketball program reached heights that it had never achieved in the past. It saw itself to a conference tournament championship as well as 4 appearances in the NCAA tournament, one of which saw them advance all the way to the Elite 8.

Oregon Ducks

McArthur Court was one of the most intimidating places to play. (Photo Credit: Oregon Live)

During this era, the structure of McArthur Court was one of the most intimidating in the nation.

McArthur (“Mac”) Court

One of the most historic venues in all of college sports, the first game played in McArthur Court took place in 1927.

Really taking shape during the era of the “Kamikazee Kids” (nicknamed for their aggressive and inspiring play), Mac Court became one of the hardest places to play as an away team in college basketball. Much of the reason that this became so was because of the intimate atmosphere and boisterous acoustics of the arena.

Only having a capacity of 9,087 attendants per game, the magic of Mac Court really came from how it was constructed. The seats at McArthur Court were not just close to the court, they were almost literally on the court.

Four-tiers of fans (the first of which located on the actual court) decorated the inside of the arena, providing the atmosphere and capacity for the hardest place to play in college basketball.

In fact, there have been numerous reports that the noise was so loud and the crowd so ferocious that the building could be seen shaking from outside of the arena. Teams trembled in fear as they entered “The Pit” to a sea of yellow, ravenous fans; cheering so loud that the scoreboard began to vibrate.

The Pit Crew( Oregon’s student section) placed an exclamation point on the Mac Court experience, harboring some of the most ruthless fans college basketball has ever come to see.

Experiencing a game at Mac Court was surely an amazing experience.

However, in the back of every Duck fans mind rested one question, “How long could this court last?”

Though renovations had kept the arena usable up through the 2000s, the minimal access to restrooms, obstructed view seating, and general wearing down of the arena sparked a need for a new arena, one that could usher in the next era of Oregon Duck basketball.

And what better person to fund and design this effort than Nike co-founder and University of Oregon’s very own Phil Knight.

Matthew (Matt) Knight Arena

Breaking ground in 2008, Matthew Knight Arena (Eugene, Oregon) is surely a spectacle to behold. Resting on the outskirts of the University of Oregon Campus, the arena looks as though it was imported straight from Los Angeles.

Funded primarily through booster donations and Phil Knight (Nike co-founder and University of Oregon graduate/athlete), Matt Knight Arena was built not as a structure for the present, but as a basketball arena for the future.

Boasting state-of-the-art technology, Matthew Knight Arena surely brings a different type of experience to Oregon basketball than has ever been seen before. The outside of the arena is encased with large glass windows, giving audiences both inside and outside of the stadium the opportunity to behold the views of the surrounding area.

The inside of the arena is encircled by a walkway that traverses the entire arena, giving fans the opportunity to learn about the history of Oregon Duck athletics.

Oregon Ducks

Matthew Knight Arena is the home of the Oregon Ducks and future of Oregon Basketball

Although the lavish design of the area outside of the actual court is surely an upgrade from Mac Court, the court area and seating of Matt Knight Arena truly define the future of Oregon basketball.

HD Video-screens, designs on the court, and unobstructed seating truly give Matt Knight Arena a different feel from Mac Court.

In order to appease the Mac Court traditionalists, fans were once again placed right next to the court and seating was installed at the steepest legal level, thus placing the fans as close to the court as is legally possible.

The Pit Crew remains snuggled up close to the court, providing intimidation and an intense atmosphere for the Ducks.

A hybrid of future and past, Matt Knight Arena is truly the future of Oregon Basketball.

The Future of Oregon Basketball

Though the team has been rather lackluster as of late (especially in 2009 and 2010), recent appearances in the NIT as well as a CBI Championship have aided in sparking a new fiery passion for basketball within Matthew Knight Arena.

As more and more fans begin to funnel into Matt Knight Arena, we will begin to see whether or not the arena truly can match the tradition and passion Mac Court provided.

One thing is for certain, though: the future of Oregon basketball has arrived, and the Ducks (and Matthew Knight Arena) are ready to take the nation by storm.


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About Chris Anderson

NWSB Editor. Chris hails from Eugene, Oregon; home of the Fighting Ducks. If he is not viewing, writing about, or attending sporting events, Chris is running on the trails Eugene offers or out-and-about. Aspirations to exceed expectations. Connect w/ Chris today!
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