The 2016-2017 men’s basketball season has been a remarkable run. One for the ages and one to remember, indeed. But will the Ducks finish strong and as the best they can be, or will they hit the wall, unable to put the finishing touches on the season? Will they re-write more of the record books and finish as champions — of the Pac-12, Conference Tournament, or will they even win the National Championship title?
The answer to those questions and more will soon unfold beginning with the final conference game this weekend against the OSU Beavers. A win this weekend and the Ducks clinch at least the Pac-12 title as Co-Champions with Arizona, or in the least likely case that the Ducks win and UA loses, then the Ducks will become the Champs alone.
Then follows the Pac-12 Conference Championship Tournament in Las Vegas. The Ducks have the mettle to compete and win that one, too. It’s a matter of whether they show up and play their best games or whether they fade as they have a times or don’t show up at all. Not only is the season getting long, but with a conference title in hand and the NCAA Tournament looming with the much-ballyhooed March Madness, will this phenomenal Ducks team have the concentration, fortitude and toughness to survive in Las Vegas?
These Ducks, by many accounts, have the make-up and coaching to win it all this year. Several times during the year, the MBB team has been rated in the Top-5 nationally, but at one time the team nearly dropped out of the AP Top-25 after falling to unranked Georgetown and Baylor on the road.
The team will enter the NCAA most likely as either the Number 2 or even Number 1 seed. A ranking that high surely shows that the game’s best experts deem them worthy and in the hunt. Can they execute, overcome adversity, rise to the occasion and bring home the title? Time will tell, but I personally have enjoyed most of the games throughout this season.
I like the players, their style of play, the strategy and the amazing athletic feats whether outstanding shooting, unexpected blocks, shut-down defense, slam dunks or coaching — and more. What a fun team to watch, and what a collection of winners and team-first contributors. Hats off to Dana Altman and his coaching staff for finding this group of men and training them up to be competitors and winners.
So — which Ducks will show up and finish this season? Will it be the high scoring, fast-paced, jam-it-down-your-throat Ducks who can bring it home? Or will it be the periodically lost Ducks who fall out of rhythm, can’t get a shot off within the 24-second clock limit, hold and dribble the ball, don’t rebound or even go to the rim, yada yada. Luckily, the just-described Ducks have not been the ones we have witnessed most of the time and then only for brief lapses. But on the road to a championship, our Ducks must be better and at the top of their game.
I’m an old turd. Not quite as old as dirt, but approaching it. I’ve seen some banter lately in various media remembering Ronnie Lee, Greg Ballard, Stu Jackson and the rest of the Kamikaze Kids. For perspective, I was a student and seldom missed a game in that run. I later held season tickets for the last seasons of those great teams. I see similarities in this Ducks team and those beloved Kamikaze Kids.
This is a better team than those Ducks teams were. This team has the capability to win it all and become the National Champions. I live in South Carolina now and witnessed Clemson’s consecutive trips to the football Natty and this year’s win to claim the National Championship over Alabama. I watched the Ducks football team play for the national title twice in five years, getting a feel for what it takes to win the big one.
Will our shooters Tyler Dorsey, Dillon Brooks, Chris Boucher, Dylan Ennis or Casey Benson shoot closer to 60% or 30% from 3-point range over the run ahead? Will Boucher, Jordan Bell, or Kavell Bigby-Williams hit the boards and put up big rebounding numbers? Will they block out and fight, or will they give up too many defensible points and lose rebounds they should control? I wonder if Bigby-Williams and Roman Sorkin can emerge to contribute more during their typically brief appearances? If they can become energized, disruptive and chip in more than they have thus far, the contributions they make will be useful and may make the difference at times.
Finally — and most importantly — will the Ducks have the discipline to play their game, the energy to score lots of points (80+ per game), the work ethic and perseverance to rebound and outlet pass every possession? Will they have the speed and urgency to get steals and blocks, passing to confound the opposing defenses and quickly and frequently get into the offense? Will they run it and score while avoiding turnovers and mental mistakes?
This team is a winner, and it is made up of winners. It has the players, skills and coaching to win the title. It will be fitting if Altman gets to the top of the mountain with his excellent skills, coaching record and history. The story and the answers to these many questions is about to unfold. Buckle up, folks.
Top photo credit: Kevin Cline
Greenville, South Carolina
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