EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) - Thousands basketball fans spent a good chunk of their day tracking the Oregon Ducks’ progress from miles away, many taking time off in the middle of the work day to cheer for the team.
The Oregon Ducks men’s basketball team beat Oklahoma State University in what many consider the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, March 21. Officially, Thursday’s games were part of Round 2.
Thursday’s game marks the first time the Ducks have played in an NCAA Tournament since 2008. It’s the Ducks eleventh appearance in the contest, which began in 1985.
For many fans, seeing the Ducks back in the tournament is considered a great turn around. The Ducks hit a low point in the 2009-10 season with 16 wins and 16 losses. Head coach Ernie Kent was fired shortly after and the team went on a 39-day hiring process, eventually finding the current head coach, Dana Altman.
No matter how far the Ducks go in the competition, fans say this year is a success and it sets up for an even better season next year.
“Regardless of the outcome, I'd say it's a successful season because it’s an improvement from last year and I look forward to next year. I think next year will hopefully be another improvement,” said Matt Powell, a lifelong Duck fan and an alumni.
“I think things are looking up: you know we're losing a few guys - we're losing E.J. Singler, -a couple of those guys, but we've got a lot of young guys as well, some-up-and-comers, so I think our chances are great in the near future to get back in to the tournament,” said James Hooton, also a lifelong Duck fan and an alumni.
The Ducks will face St. Louis on Saturday in Round 3 of the tournament. A win would put the team in the Sweet 16. The farthest the Ducks have ever gone in the NCAA Tournament was back in 2007 when Aaron Brooks, TeJuan Porter, Malik Hairston, Maarty Leunen and Bryce Taylor lead the Ducks to the Elite 8. However, the Ducks won the very first NCAA men’s basketball championship in 1939, before the current tournament existed.
“I think we might be a Cinderella team; everybody's going to be surprised,” said Hooton.
After a victory against Oklahoma State, overall, the Ducks have 13 wins and 9 losses in the tournament.