Photo by Allan Johnstone
Oregon Basketball

Season in Review

March 30, 2019
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Coming into the season, the Ducks were favored to win the Pac-12 in large part because of incoming 5-star freshmen Bol Bol and Louis King. But King had to sit for the first part of the season because he was still recovering from knee surgery, and then just one game after King returned Bol would suffer a season-ending foot injury.  

Losing a key player to injury is a hard thing for any team to get past. But when that player is Bol Bol, it's a particularly tall order.

Bol is 7-2 center with the handles of a point guard. And when you factor in that he was averaging 21 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game while shooting above 50% from both the field and behind the arc, that type of production is all but impossible to replace.  

Bol suffered his injury during Oregon's game against the University of San Diego, and while the Ducks were still able to win and improve to 6-3, the lingering effects of losing Bol were about to become abundantly clear.

To make matters worse, forward Abu Kigab decided that he was going to transfer to Boise State halfway through the season, further shortening the Ducks' already shallow bench. And then defensive stalwart Kenny Wooten missed a month with a broken jaw.

While the Ducks were able to finish out the preseason with only one more loss and improve their record to 9-4, Pac-12 play would be a wakeup call for the Ducks. 

On February 23, this Oregon team was 10th in the conference with a record of 6-8. They looked like they had no shot of making it into the NIT, let alone March Madness. 

Little did Oregon fans know that the loss that day to UCLA would be the last one for more than a month. That's because they would go on to put together one of the most surprisingly dominant winning streaks I’ve ever seen.

Not only did Oregon close out the regular season strong, but it also crashed the Big Dance by winning four games in four days and claiming the automatic bid that comes with being the Pac-12 Tournament champion. 

Thanks in large part to Francis Okoro’s positive, team-first energy, Payton Pritchard becoming a dominant floor general, King finding his shooting rhythm and Ehab Amin emerging as a valuable bench player, the Ducks stormed into the NCAA Tournament and upset No. 5 seed Wisconsin in the first round.

In the round of 32 they were able to blow past No. 13 seed UC-Irvine and qualify for the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years. It was there that the Ducks’ miraculous season would end with a hard-fought, four-point loss to top-seeded Virginia.

Given all that has come before, it's hard to look at that game as a disappointment, simply because of how far the Ducks came to get there. Oregon finished the season at 25-13 -- the fifth time in Dana Altman’s nine seasons that the Ducks have won at least 25.

When people look back at this roller coaster of a year, I hope they see this team for what it was able to accomplish when everyone counted them out. They fought hard and set a good example for future teams to follow.

 
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