As the final buzzer sounded at Hec Edmundson Pavilion in Seattle, the Ducks couldn’t help but feel disappointed about their final game of this year’s basketball season. Oregon ended the 2011-2012 basketball season with a 90-86 loss to Pac-12 foe Washington Huskies in the NIT quarterfinals, capping off a 24-10 record for the Ducks. Oregon was poised to sneak into the NCAA Tournament, but could never quite get enough approval from the tournament committee. Before we start looking forward to spring football practice and other Oregon sports, let’s take a look back at the Ducks’ season and how they fared throughout the year.
The Ducks entered the season with high goals and aspirations, including that of earning a berth into the NCAA tournament. With a deep, seasoned roster that included five seniors and four juniors, the Ducks came in as one of the frontrunners to win the Pac-12 title. The season started off with a matchup with then-number 7 Vanderbilt in Nashville, which the Ducks lost 78-64. The Ducks were absent senior Devoe Joseph, a 6-foot 4-inch forward that transferred from Minnesota to join the team. Devoe would sit out the first six games of the season, but joined the Ducks in December and immediately set to work. During his brief 28-game tenure with Oregon, Joseph led all Oregon players with an average of 16.6 ppg, and also added a solid 2.9 assists each game. The Ducks played exceptionally well during non conference play, posting a 9-3 record with losses to Vanderbilt, BYU, and Virginia (all teams that made the NCAA tournament).
Oregon opened up Pac-12 play with a 92-75 win over the Washington State Cougars, but were immediately put down in Seattle by the Washington Huskies, 76-60. The game didn’t bode well for Joseph or the Ducks’ D; Joseph was held to a measly 7.8% of field goals made, and finished with four points. The Ducks defense also seemed unable to get the job done, allowing C.J. Wilcox to come off of the bench for the Huskies to lead the team with 24 points. The game ignited a fury-filled fire into Devoe, who redeemed himself with a team-high 30 points against Stanford in a 78-67 win. After the first couple of games, the Ducks seemed to bounce back and forth; they tended to win a few games before falling to conference foes such as the California Bears and the Colorado Buffaloes, the only teams to represent the Pac-12 in the NCAA Tournament this year. The Ducks’ lone “pathetic” loss came in a 5 point defeat at home against their rivals the Oregon State Beavers. At this point in the season, the speculation involving “bubble” teams had begun around the nation, and Oregon seemed to be in the center of Pac-12 conversation. With the exception of the Beavers, the teams that had defeated Oregon were exceptional programs that were having successful seasons. However, it seemed that Oregon’s weak schedule kept them out of talks as a lock for the tournament. With their key wins only coming against Washington (a 25-point blowout in Eugene) and a 9-point win over the Colorado Buffaloes, critics began to see the Ducks as a team with a rather inflated record.
At the end of the regular season, Washington had hoisted the regular season title, with Oregon and the California Bears in a tie for second. The Ducks earned the 3-seed in the Pac-12 tournament and awaited the winner between Colorado and the Utes of Utah. At this point, ESPN’s Bubble Watch projected that, with a deep run in the conference tournament and the collapse of other bubble teams around the country, Oregon would earn a berth into March Madness. That being said, the Ducks came to face the Colorado Buffaloes, with whom they had split the regular season series. The teams traded blows throughout the game, but Colorado eventually pulled a 63-62 win out as Devoe Joseph missed a 3-point attempt from the left sideline at the buzzer. The loss came as a heartbreaker to the Ducks, who would miss out on a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.
Nevertheless, the Ducks were still invited to partake in postseason play. Oregon received an invitation to the NIT, the milder sibling to the March Madness that was set to tip off in the middle of the month. The Ducks earned a 3-seed in the tournament, and opened up with a 96-76 win over the LSU Tigers. Joseph lead all scorers with 25 points and was joined by four other Ducks in the double digits column. The key factor was the Duck’s intimidating defense that forced 17 Tiger turnovers and limited their possessions. The Ducks next faced the Hawkeyes of Iowa, whom they defeated 108-97 to move on in the NIT. The Ducks found it difficult to stop Roy Devyn Marble of Iowa, who shot 67% of the field and 88% from beyond the arc to finish with 31 points.But E.J. Singler, a junior for the Ducks, answered the call with 25 points. His effort was joined by that of Olu Ashaolu, a Ducks senior that posted 22 off the bench and helped lead the Ducks to victory.The difference in this game was the Ducks’ bench, who outscored that of Iowa 43-17. The quarterfinal matchup in the tournament featured the Ducks and the Huskies, who were meeting for the third time this season, the prize coming in the form of a semifinals trip to Madison Square Garden in New York. Oregon took control of the game early and led by 4 at the half, and the game was theirs to lose. Unfortunately, that was the case as Washington rallied back to defeat the Ducks 90-86.
The Ducks will be saying farewell to 5 seniors, including offensive standouts Devoe Joseph, Olu Ashaolu, and Garrett Sim. The Ducks future looks bright though; they will return 4 juniors to the squad next season, two of which were starters this year. Their recruiting class is also impressive, which includes Dominic Artis of Findlay College Prep. Artis is 67th on the ESPNU Top 100 list, and considered number 8 at his position of point guard. Look for the Ducks to make a jump into the NCAA Tournament next year as they use experience to conquer all.