Dana Altman has been a Division I head coach for 24 years and a good one at that. Altman is one of the premiere head figures in the realm of college basketball and has coached countless groups of players ranging in all levels of talent and personalities. His three non-winning seasons in 24 years will attest to the aforementioned facts.
But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t experienced his fair share of rough patches. Following the Ducks’ fourth consecutive loss to Oregon State this past weekend, Altman was at a loss for words. Not because the tenured coach wasn’t aware of what he and his team were getting into, but because he knew how hard the road back to the top was. Altman did admit that he had gone through similar stretches in previous years following just his second loss to the in-state rival Beavers since 2010, but there was an unspoken feeling in the room that this year was just a little different.
Since beginning the season with a perfect 13-0 non-conference record and top 10 ranking, the Ducks have not only dropped out of the Associated Press top 25, but they have fallen to the bottom of the Pac-12 conference. Things are spiraling out of control at a rapid pace for a team that had up until this point proven that six transfers can indeed work together to create a national powerhouse. For now there are many questions that continue to be left unanswered.
But the one question that has yet to be asked is how this group of transfers will react to adversity. Is this team capable of coming together for the second half of the Pac-12 season or are they going to crumble as a group?
The answer to this question will arrive in the coming weeks. These next few games against Washington and Washington State will be critical in determining the remainder of the season and they will also serve as the tipping point for whether or not this team is truly a capable team or if they are a compiled group of individuals that aren’t willing to come together.
There is no doubt that this team has the talent to compete for a Pac-12 title and make some further noise in March at the NCAA tournament. Size has been an issue for this team all season long, but if the 2006-07 Oregon team proved anything in their Elite Eight run, it is that there are ways to make up for what you don’t have in size with skill and athleticism. This team happens to have both. The Ducks have lived up to their potential in spurts and it’s going to be merely a matter of putting it together on both ends of the floor.
Amid the difficulties of the Oregon football team, this year was supposed to be the year when the basketball team grabbed the full attention of their respective fan base. But instead, they have continued to disappoint. There is still some time to recover what has already been lost, but it will involve a process that both Altman and the Ducks will have to push through together — likely for the first time.
Follow Hayden Kim on Twitter @HayDayKim