Welcome to Oregon Basketball and The Season of New, a weekly Pac-12 microsite column from Rockne Roll (@raroll). His column will focus on the various issues facing college basketball through the prism of the Oregon Ducks, a program ostensibly on the rise with top-notch facilities and coaching but still subject to many of the same problems suffered by many of the other high-major programs around the country.
Christmas has come and probably gone by the time you read this, so instead of focusing on “the spirit of the season” and joy and all that, it’s time to discuss the real reason that Christmas is such a popular holiday: gifts. Everyone likes receiving gifts, and college basketball coaches are no exception. Quite a few coaches have been reveling in the gifts they received from Recruiting Claus way back in the offseason as their freshman prospects have blossomed into powerhouse college players. But gifts come in all shapes, sizes and amounts of remaining eligibility for coaches. As the season has unfolded, a number of seniors that were previously talented but not quite superstar players have emerged as unexpected studs that have propelled their teams to unexpected success.
The most prominent example of this phenomenon nationally has been Mason Plumlee. Notching just over 11 points and nine boards in last year’s campaign, the middle of the Plumlee brothers was expected to headline the Blue Devil’s frontcourt this year, but not to factor into the hunt for national honors nor was Duke seen as a serious national title contender. How times change: Plumlee now averages nearly 20 points per contest and is the leading scorer and rebounder for the best team in the country. “Mason Plumlee’s improvement in a year’s time is extraordinary,” Elon coach Matt Matheny told reporters after Plumlee scored 21 and notched 15 boards in Duke’s 76-54 win over the Phoenix at Cameron Indoor Stadium. “He has done a tremendously good job of developing into a really, really good college player.” “Really good” is an understatement here, as Plumlee has gone from potential All-American to the short list for the Naismith Award.