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(image courtesy

(image courtesy

In a land far away called ESPN Connecticut, the Oregon Duck Basketball team peaked in 1939.

The Tall Firs claimed the first NCAA championship.

The UO collection of title trophies equals the Portland Trail Blazers.

In a world of east coast bias, also known as “Those games are played too late out west and I’ve got an early wake up for Bristol,” sports prophets missed some great seasons.

The Oregon Ducks just played one.

Since 1939, UO basketball has seen many iterations, some of them tagged with names that may not be proper for today’s public consumption.

The Kamikaze Kids sound like a threat to one and all, but the record shows they did not sink any battleships in WWII. No aircraft carriers came under fire from this Dick Harter coached team.

They did play a brand of ball that frightened opponents when they took the floor, and that doesn’t mean walking onto the court.

The Harter teams took to the floor with their face down dives after loose balls. They took to the air to intercept misguided passes. They did everything you’d expect from a team coached by a man who went on to show the NBA how to play defense.

But no title. Only the Tall Firs pulled that one in.

It’s fitting that one of the Kamikaze Kids had a chance to take another Duck team to the Big Dance. Ernie Kent went deep to the Elite Eight with the Luke and Luke line up. You can say they overachieved, or they came up short, but how many times does that happen?

All the time, just ask Duke.

College basketball measures success many ways. One is the regular season record. Another is the conference championship tournament. The hardest test comes in the NCAA Tournament.

How hard? Ask UCLA who just fired Ben Howland who got them to the Final Four three times during his time with the Bruins. Numbers don’t lie, and neither do one and done recruits.

2012 National Champion Kentucky didn’t even make the field this year. No news on John Calipari’s departure, even with the Lady Wildcats still alive.

Flip forward to this years Ducks. The man who replaced Coach Kent pushed his team further than any expected. Dana Altman, PAC12 Coach of the Year, did Oregon proud with two tourney wins and a place in the Sweet Sixteen. Yes, they fell to Louisville and Rick Pitino, joining a long list of teams under that heading. How good is Pitino? Even the NBA Boston Celtics fell to Pitino when he was their coach and President.

After the Ducks dropped games to Colorado and Utah late in the season no one could have predicted their tournament run. Sure they won the PAC12 clash, but the PAC12 is down. You know you’re down when a conference champion gets a twelve seed. They’ll get blown out in the first game? No. The second game? No.

Mighty Louisville will lay the lumber to them with a win on cruise control? Not exactly. This is where the Kamikaze Kids would have come in handy. The Ducks opened on a tentative note and played from behind the whole game. Would a player with no give-up make a difference? The Ducks didn’t give up, but one or two guys flying to the ball, or sliding on the Indianapolis hardwood, would have rallied the troops.

A player who shows the game means more than their own well being has a ripple effect across all sports.

These Ducks learned to breath the thin air at the top of big time college sports the same as Oregon football.

If they learn to do it as well as Florida in 2007, add another shelf to the trophy case.

Boomerpdx is already sharpening the saw to cut shelf wood so Portland baby boomers will have it ready.

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About David Gillaspie
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