Written by Alex Drude | 27 February 2012
The worst of the four Duck and Beaver basketball teams has a .500 record going into the final week of the regular season. I understand this may not seem like something to be proud of, until you consider where these programs have been the past few years.
Easily, the best story of the bunch is the Oregon State women. Their program was in absolute shambles in the fall of 2010 and I think that might be a generous statement. That they’re 18 - 9 and 9 - 7 in the Pac-12 and even have a shot at a 20-win regular season . . . much less a 20-win season, period, is amazing. Scott Rueck, the head coach, has done a tremendous job, scrambling together a team of hustlers who believe they’re in it to win it. They can finish third in the conference and are guaranteed, at worst, a WNIT berth. Postseason? For this team? This year? Wow!
Should the Beaver men be over .500 by this point? Yeah, probably. But the fact that they’re at .500 and have their best regular season finish in seven years guaranteed no matter what happens this weekend should tell you something. No Beaver coach has finished at least .500 two years running since Ralph Miller’s final two seasons more than twenty years ago. And they named the court at Gill Coliseum after him. So argue all you want that the Beavers should be better - you probably won’t get much argument from anybody. What you can’t argue with is that Craig Robinson has this team pointed up and that hasn’t been the case in a looooonnnnnng time.
Which brings me to the “worst” team of the bunch, the Oregon women. They’re at .500 and they’re scuffling, yeah. I’ve wondered if this is Paul Westhead’s final year on the bench and I’m certainly not the only one, considering it’s become a fairly good conversation between me and whoever, whenever the subject has come up. I look at the fact that their best player, Amanda Johnson, was sidelined for six weeks with a broken thumb when I consider their season. Without AJ, I don’t think that team really knew what to do. They were 7 - 2 when she left and 11 - 10 when she returned. The team was geared for AJ and her going down made all the difference in this Oregon season.
That leaves the Oregon men’s team. Dana Altman is the second coach in Oregon history to have twenty wins in each of his first two seasons. The other is Howard Hobson, who you may know as the man who coached the Tall Firs to the very first NCAA title in 1939. When I was an undergrad at Kansas many years back, we followed the good other Midwestern hoops teams because that’s just what you do in winter when it’s ten degrees for three months, and Dana’s Creighton teams always made the viewing list. We knew somehow Dana was going to get twenty wins from his teams and he always seemed to do so. He still has the touch - and now Oregon has just it’s 13th twenty-win season. Ever. I think if they sweep this weekend they will make the NCAA tournament because the committee will not leave out a 22-win team from a big conference. They may be the 68th team to get in and have to play a play-in game in Dayton, but I think they’ll get in.
Do you know what this means? Three of the four teams are going to make the post-season and the Duck ladies could possibly make it four of four, an unprecedented feat in the State of Oregon. It’s a good hoops season for everybody, now it’s up to everybody to realize it.