What does Oregon’s future hold after losing to Cal for the first time since 2016?

Feb 24, 2024; Berkeley, California; California Golden Bears guard Jalen Cone (15) shoots over Oregon Ducks forward Brennan Rigsby (4).
Feb 24, 2024; Berkeley, California; California Golden Bears guard Jalen Cone (15) shoots over Oregon Ducks forward Brennan Rigsby (4). / Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a powerful victory over the Stanford Cardinal on Thursday, Oregon couldn’t quite hit the mark against the California Golden Bears on Saturday.

Working to cement a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament and earn a ticket to the NCAA Tournament, the Ducks needed to complete the Bay Area sweep. Falling short of defeating Cal, Oregon may have put its March Madness bid at risk.

Oregon is currently 18-9 overall and 10-6 in conference games. With just four games remaining in the regular season, the Ducks are creeping dangerously close to missing out on the NCAA Tournament once again.

In the past two years, head coach Dana Altman has failed to lead his team to the main dance.

The Ducks have also failed to find their way to either of the NIT Tournament championship games. They haven’t even made it to the semifinals as a matter of fact.

Oregon’s last appearance in the NCAA Tournament was in 2021 and the Ducks made it to the Sweet Sixteen before losing to the USC Trojans.

So, with their current season on the rocks and a struggle to make the NCAA Tournament, what is in store for the Ducks’ future?

Altman signed a one-year extension to his preexisting contract with the Ducks, ensuring his place in Eugene through 2028. As the second-highest-paid coach in the Pac-12, Oregon’s head coach won’t be going anywhere, anytime soon.

As the Ducks head to the Big Ten, will they be able to keep pace with some of the perennial basketball programs?

I’m worried that as Oregon meets new in-conference opponents in the coming season, the team will struggle to find the necessary wins once again. I don’t expect the Ducks to be able to consistently defeat teams like Michigan, Michigan State, and others in the Big Ten.

Oregon is a fresh team but not necessarily a young one. Altman has repeatedly capitalized on the transfer portal to rebuild and shape his rosters. 

If this trend continues, I fear that the Ducks won’t be able to gel with one another the same way that other schools can. Altman will need to find a way to maintain consistency for his team like other programs have been able to.

With UCLA and USC also joining Oregon’s migration to the Big Ten, and the two Los Angeles teams having some semblance of a growth plan, I worry that the Ducks won’t even be able to pull off wins over their current conference foes.

For the remainder of this season, Oregon has a tough road ahead. The Ducks will host Oregon State at home before they head to Tuscon to play Arizona, the No. 1 team in the conference. Closing out the season, Oregon will host Colorado and Utah.

In four must-win games, the Ducks could very easily be cementing their future in the national basketball scene.

Players are quick to transfer out of programs struggling to make the tournament. Fans are quick to give up on teams that don’t give them a postseason to look forward to.

While Oregon losing the next four games wouldn’t be the literal end of the program, I don’t think the team can easily afford to miss the tournament for a third year in a row.

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