After a remarkable 12-2 season that ended with wins in the Rose Bowl and the Pac-12 Championship, the Oregon Ducks football team proved once and for all that they are back.
Unlike, the football program, Oregon men’s basketball is in the midst of one of their best eras in school history. They have won at least a share of the Pac-12 title in three of the last four seasons, including March Madness tournament runs that ended in the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight and Final Four.
Currently, the Ducks’ men’s basketball team is 20-6 with a conference best 9-4 Pac-12 record. What is fascinating about all of this is the parallels between the football and basketball teams.
Oregon’s MBB team has roughly completed 80 percent of their season and are ranked 14th nationally. At this point in the football season, the Ducks had just lost to Arizona State, sat with a record of 9-2, and were ranked 12th nationally.
The undeniable similarities between Oregon’s football and men’s basketball teams are fascinating. So much so it begs the question… who’s better?
The Case for Oregon Football
After the Ducks lost to Arizona State in late November 2019, all hopes about the season seemed t0 be over. The offense looked lost and out of sync for three and a half quarters, while the defense was unable to stop a mediocre Sun Devil offense that was led by true freshman Jayden Daniels.
The mood in Eugene was somber. The Ducks’ CFB Playoff chances were over, their Pac-12 undefeated season was over, and facing Utah in the Pac-12 Championship seemed like a mighty task at the time.
But what separates a good team from a great team?
This young Ducks roster took this loss to heart and made sure they did not ever want to feel this way again (or at least this season). They managed to rattle off wins against in-state rival Oregon State, blew out Utah in the Pac-12 Championship and even had a come from behind win against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
By the end of the season the Ducks were one of the hottest teams in college football, and looked like one of the four best along with LSU, Clemson and Ohio State. Although Justin Herbert might have been the “flashy quarterback name” that the national media knew, the team’s heart and soul came from the defense and offensive line.
This Oregon team was led by a group of seniors that started their career 4-8; however, in their four years they managed to miraculously turn the Oregon football program around. They brought the Ducks back to a level of national relevance that had not been attained since Marcus Mariota in 2015.
The Case for Oregon Men’s Basketball
Unlike the Ducks football team, Oregon’s men’s basketball season is still completely in their hands. They have essentially cemented their place in the NCAA March Madness tournament and will spend the next few weeks jocking for seeding.
Oregon’s men’s basketball team has five games left in their regular season schedule. They travel down south to face talented Arizona and Arizona State teams, and then come back to Eugene to end their season against Oregon State, Cal and Stanford. The Ducks have already played each of their remaining opponents once before and each game has been a nail-biter. The Ducks hopefully will split in Arizona and win out their final three games at home, which would put them atop the Pac-12 with a record of 24-7.
If the Ducks were to win the Pac-12 regular season title, they would be automatically guaranteed a spot in the big dance. But why stop there… The Ducks have an opportunity to complete the Pac-12 sweep with a tournament championship. Having both Pac-12 titles would likely propel the Ducks to a two or three seed and would give them a great route to make the Elite 8, Final 4 or even go further.
Now, I may seem a bit overly optimistic on this year’s Ducks basketball team but what they have done this season with minimal production from 5-star recruit, N’faly Dante is quite remarkable. Additionally, this is the first NCAA MBB season in years where there isn’t a dominant team. Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas, San Diego State and Duke are all among the top teams in the country but none of them seem “unbeatable”.
This Ducks team will go as far as senior superstar Payton Pritchard will take them. The Wooden Award candidate has played out of his mind this season. Leading the team in points, assists and minutes played, the Ducks will have to rely on Pritchard heavily throughout the rest of the regular season and during their tournament run.
I believe Pritchard and the rest of this Ducks squad will be up to the task. I see them winning the Pac-12 regular season title and making it as far as the Elite 8 where they may face a blue blood like a Gonzaga, Kansas or Duke. But the Ducks have recently beaten Kansas and Duke in the tournament so don’t count them out!
But relating back to are initial question: How does that compare to Oregon’s football team?
After the football season ended, the Ducks finished 5th in both the AP poll and CFB Playoff Poll. If Oregon’s MBB were to make an Elite 8 appearance or potentially even Final 4, then I believe they would be on par with their football team.
But until the men’s basketball season ends it is impossible to compare and rank the two individual teams. I would argue that Oregon’s MBB teams’ ceiling is equivalent to what the Duck’s football season produced. And for that reason, I will still have to give the edge to the football team.
With all that being said, I acknowledge my bias that I am a football fan first and foremost so, let’s hear it from you.
Which Ducks team do you think is better?
Eugene, Oregon Top Photo by Tom Corno
Bob Rodes, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester, Tennessee.
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