Make no mistake about it. Without Matthew Knight Arena, the Ducks wouldn’t have Dana Altman, they wouldn’t have the talent, and they wouldn’t be in the final four.
Or would they?
Because in a disturbing alternate reality where MKA is still a piece of land with an old bakery on it, the Ducks would still be celebrating 2017 in the final four alright:
The NIT Final Four!
“No!” you scream.
And exactly how would this nightmare occur?
A Journey Back In Time
This tale begins in 2007 with the greatest upset in the history of mankind. When instead of being cast off to UOP (The University of Oregon at Pullman, aka WSU), Bill Moos miraculously survives the coup of Phil Knight and Pat Kilkenny and remains in power of the Oregon athletic department.
The failed attempt on Moos’ reign of “do nothing” emboldens his superpowers of ineptness a thousand times over.
By 2010, with plans for a new arena having gone the way of the Duck Dome and Oregon basketball in The PITs, Moos makes a stunningly sound decision in firing Ernie Kent.
But after crisscrossing the country for 39 days, the harsh reality of the situation–due to old McArthur Court–is that nobody, literally nobody, wants the job.
Moos offers the job to big names like Tom Izzo, Jamie Dixon and Dana Altman all the way down to a local area high-school coach.
All of them candidly retorting: “You can’t win in that pile of s&%#!”
With this, Bill Moos eats crow and offers Ernie Kent his job back.
But not so fast my friends!
Ernie, ever the savvy, holds out for twice the money.
Moos, out of options–his ineptness in overdrive–is left with no choice.
The 2016-2017 Season
In this alternate reality, the Ducks obviously wouldn’t be as good as Altman’s Ducks, but they certainly wouldn’t be as bad as Bill and Ernie’s Cougars.
This is simply due to the fact that Eugene is a million times better than Pullman.
So what we’ll do is meet the real Ducks (27-4, 16-2) and the really bad Cougars (13-18, 6-12) halfway.
This would put Bill and Ernie’s alternate version of this year’s Ducks at 20-11 overall and 11-7 in conference play.
(Perfect for the NIT as this year’s Utah Utes had this exact same record and scored a number three seed to the little dance.)
Duck fans of course would be clamoring for an NCAA bid, but no way, 20-11 doesn’t cut it.
Sorry bizarro Ducks.
Dissed by the dance once again, a grassroots movement in Eugene starts up a petition to get the field of 68 expanded to 96.
The Legend Of Payton Pritchard Grows
Good news in our distorted reality as 2016 brings Ernie Kent and the Oregon Ducks the commitment of blue-chip recruit Payton Pritchard. He is hailed as the next great Oregon point guard in the vain of Terrell Brandon, Kenya Wilkens, Luke Ridnour, and Aaron Brooks.
Ernie would simply not let this local talent leave the state as he sells Pritchard on the “charms” of Mac Court. He views Pritchard as the face of the Oregon program for the next four years.
He also sees Pritchard coming in not merely as a quarterback and ball distributor of the Ducks up tempo style of play, but also as a primary offensive threat.
Pritchard doesn’t disappoint as he averages 16.5 points, 7.9 assists, and 36 minutes a game.
Pritchard establishes himself as the best overall player on the team and emotional leader.
In this alternate reality–in the face of UCLA’s Lonzo Ball being voted first-team all-American–Pac-12 voters hold the UCLA freshman’s loud-mouthed father and former WSU Cougar, Lavar Ball, against him.
They go ahead and vote Pritchard as the Pac-12’s Freshman Player of the Year.
Justice served, if only in our dreams.
All For Ernie
In celebration of Ernie’s 20th season, it wouldn’t be enough for the Ducks to merely reach the NIT final four. Nope, they go ahead and win the whole damn thing.
Riding the wave of excitement, wanting to go out on top, and now 62 years old, Ernie applies for early social security retirement benefits and steps down as the head coach of the Oregon Ducks.
Ernie Kent, Oregon coaching legend, leaves the court on the shoulders of his players and rides out into the sunset as a champion.
Champion of the NIT.
And this my Oregon friends would be our wonderful life without Matthew Knight Arena.
Top photo credit: wikimedia