Oregon celebrating with the Pac-12 Championship Trophy (Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports)

Oregon celebrating with the Pac-12 Championship Trophy
(Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports)

The Oregon Ducks (26-8, 12-6) men’s basketball team just completed an impressive run in the Pac-12 Tournament that saw them crowned conference champions and feeling comfortable waiting to hear the selection committee’s seeding.

This 2012-13 season has been, unable to avoid the cliche, a roller coaster ride. The Ducks have seen unprecedented highs, but also incredible lows. At one point, this team was ranked No. 10 in the country and had a firm grip on first place in the Pac-12 conference.

Head coach Dana Altman had each cog of the machine running together from the bigs to stellar guard play. After opening up the season at 18-2, the Ducks began to crack.

When starting point guard Dominic Artis went down to an indefinite foot injury, the team didn’t just slip… it did a bellyflop off of the high dive in epic failure. Oregon lost three straight games to sub-par competition and five of its final 10 regular season games.

But it wasn’t just that they were losing that was so concerning, it was the way they were losing. The Ducks lost by an average of 10.67 points per game during their slip, and that included Artis returning for the final three games of the season.

While you can’t expect a true freshman to return to an all-conference level after just a few games back, Artis had an absolutely horrid Pac-12 Tournament. And I’m not being mean, it’s just the truth. Artis was held scoreless in two of the three games and had a total of five points (1.67 PPG). His assist/turnover ratio was 6/9 (.67) opposed to his 84/59 (1.42) ratio on the season. That type of drop-off is night and day for such a talented player.

Fortunately for the Ducks, junior Johnathan Loyd (Pac-12 Tournament MVP) decided to take some of Michael Jordan’s special drink. Seriously! How did a guy averaging 4.29 points per game go off for 19 points in the Pac-12 Championship game?

So where does this team sit currently? To be honest, it’s hard to really say. If you’re getting the Ducks team that made UCLA’s offense look the Sheldon Irish in the OSAA playoffs (sorry, too soon?) you could have a real threat to make a run. If you’re getting the Ducks team that lost back-to-back games to Colorado and Utah by 36 total points, and wasn’t worthy of being on the same court as the guys across from them, you could see a repeat of the 2008 team.

Here’s how the Ducks look statistically:

RPI

Oregon has an average RPI, but few committee members are naive enough to look at an irrational figure. What will be interesting to see is whether Oregon will be punished for its February-early March lapse. Is a three-game winning streak enough to overlook two abysmal games against Colorado and a below .500 Utah Utes team?

To be fair, Utah finished the season as one of the hottest teams in the Pac-12, but that won’t show on paper. Again, this is why rankings like the RPI are ridiculous and have no real meaning to collegiate athletics. I’m looking at you too, BCS.

Oregon has a perfect 2-0 record against the top teams it plays (RPI top-25). Oregon went 3-0 against the top-2 Pac-12 teams (UCLA and Arizona) during the season. However, the Ducks also went 0-4 against Cal and Colorado who rank fourth and fifth respectively in the conference.

So what Ducks team will we see in the NCAA Tournament?

Dominic Artis (247 Sports)

Dominic Artis
(247 Sports)

Why Oregon Gets Bounced Opening Weekend

Guard play is pivotal to success in the NCAA Tournament. Both of Oregon’s Elite 8 Runs of 2001 and 2007 were due to phenomenal point guards. The Ducks ran with the Lukes (Ridnour and Jackson) in 2001 and had a guy by the name of Aaron Brooks in 2007 who needs no introduction.

What does Oregon have now? A frustrated freshman struggling at the most important time of the season and a junior in Loyd who is still an unknown. Oregon can’t afford to struggle with turnovers like they did at the start of the UCLA game. They just can’t. Bigger and better teams will make them pay for mistakes at the big dance.

If Artis continues to struggle and Loyd isn’t able to stay at a superhuman level, it will be a short trip for the Ducks.

Oregon's EJ Singler (left) and head coach Dana Altman (center) (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

Oregon’s EJ Singler (left) and head coach Dana Altman (center)
(AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

Why Oregon Makes it to the Sweet 16 or Farther

The Ducks have coach Altman, who I believe is one of the best and brightest minds in all of college basketball. In just three seasons the coach from Creighton has had his team playing deep into postseason tournaments.

Oregon won the CBI in his first year with the team, nearly made it to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden in the NIT last season, and now it’s time to take this experience and apply it to the big dance.

With experienced players E.J. Singler and forward Arsalan Kazemi, this team has the core of a contender. Guard play will catch up as Oregon takes care of a tuneup game in round one before facing real competition. As long as this team can be a six seed or higher and avoid a one or two seed in round two, this team should be safe to make it to the sweet 16 or further.


In reality, I see this team as incredibly gifted and well-coached with all of the tools ready to make that next step forward as a program. Unfortunately, I expect the Ducks to receive a seed that will pair them with an elite level team in round two where they get bounced before the Sweet 16.

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