Oregon Week: Evaluating The Recent PastPosted by Connor Pelton on August 7th, 2012
In what could be considered one of the top few-year spans in recent Pac-10/12 history, Oregon was right in the thick of it from 2006-08. Ernie Kent led the Ducks to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in those two seasons, the first of which included a run to the Elite Eight. That season was one that many would consider the most successful in Oregon history. Led by star players Aaron Brooks, Malik Hairston, Tajuan Porter, and Maarty Leunen, the Ducks won 18 of their first 19 games, then finished the year by winning nine in a row before falling in a tight game against top-seed Florida. Along the way they won at Georgetown, #8 Arizona, and Washington State, and knocked off Nebraska, #1 UCLA, and Washington State in Eugene. The Pit Crew made McArthur Court into one of the toughest gyms in the nation and excitement was at an all-time high surrounding the program. Building off of that excitement, the Ducks added one of the top freshman centers in the nation in Michael Dunigan and notched road wins against Kansas State and Arizona en route to a second straight NCAA bid, just the third time ever that had happened in program history. Then, the wheels fell off.
With Brooks, Hairston, or Leunen nowhere to be found, the Ducks limped all the way to an 8-23 finish in 2008-09. They won just six nonconference games that season and finished dead last in the conference by four games. At one low point, Oregon was only four games away from finishing the year without a Pac-10 victory before they beat Stanford. Despite some grumblings throughout Eugene, Kent held on to his job for another year. 2009-10 wasn’t much better, though, and despite finishing with a .500 record, the Ducks only beat one nationally ranked opponent all year long. Kent was soon fired, and after a lengthy coaching search that resulted in many candidates turning down the job, Creighton’s Dana Altman signed on.
The Altman era has been a rollercoaster so far. On one hand, the good hand, he’s producing. He won 21 games on the way to a CBI Championship in his first season, and he added three to that total and an appearance in the NIT quarterfinals in his second year at the helm. With three excellent recruits set to join the team this year in the form of Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson, and Fred Richardson, the next logical step would be the NCAA Tournament. However, while Altman has succeeded in bringing talent onto the roster, he’s struggled to keep it there. Nine players have left the team since Altman arrived, and four of them either making big or expected to make contributions that season. The question is, and we’ll take a look at this with more depth later in the week, whether he can build a Pac-12 Championship contender with a constant cloud of player and rotation uncertainty always surrounding him.