Nevertheless, the favorite memory of the weekend and it could well become the favorite of the tournament as a whole.
THE WOMEN SO FAR
No question, a nice win in Seattle over TCU. The Ducks played hard and forced the breaks their way down the stretch.
Baylor was a buzz-saw. And Baylor buzz-sawed a couple more getting to the final four. Though there are no moral victories – actually, there are… but that's for another column – for the first 10 to 12 minutes the Ducks were able to compete. Quickness is inevitable and about that point in time inevitable took over as Baylor sprinted to a substantial lead before the half.
For the three seniors it was a season of recognition and legacy for what can be accomplished with hard work and dedication. Had someone made the offer on Oct 1 that the Ducks would have a 21-10 season including a win over a top-5 team in Stanford and also win their first round tournament game – they wouldn't had to have asked loudly.
Very nicely done, mademoiselles.
MORE TOURNAMENT TIDBITS
As for the rest of the ladies tournament, Michigan State is the surprise in the Final Four at the expense of the - by definition - disappointing Stanford Cardinal. The Trees were consistently the best team in the Pac-10 this season and had the ingredients to crack the final bracket. Michigan State demonstrated themselves to be a very fine team in beating Stanford and very much deserve to play the last weekend.
Setting NCAA career records along the way, Pat Summit's Tennessee Volunteers have advanced as has conference mate Louisiana State. But don't forget about Baylor… more buzz-saw numbers aren't likely in this rarified air but as they showed against North Carolina, they are no shrinking violet to this level of play.
SPRING FOOTBALL PRACTICE NEARLY HERE
That would explain why the weather went retro – back to something like November around here anyway.
There are few areas lacking in interest as practices approach. The new coordinator as part of a much reshuffled coaching staff will attract much of the attention. As will the core of returning players who do represent a talented nucleus to build around. That nucleus was certainly in place last season to less than welcome result, so that alone isn't reassuring. The last season that Ducks didn't go to a bowl game was after a 6-5 campaign in 1996. In 1997 the record was 7-5 and from there improved incrementally to the 11-1 season in 2001.
If things in life move cyclically, the fortunes of a football team have a unique bio-rhythm. Swayed greatly by coaching migrations at the coordinator and position level and by uneven recruiting cycles as players mature at widely varying rates. Once all the elements start to coalesce the pent-up energy builds a wave as small accomplishments pave the way for larger successes.
Encouraging as it may be to view the state of the Ducks in those rose colored glasses it would be wise to revisit that adjective "incrementally" a couple of paragraphs above. If there is a glass slipper to be grabbed in the Pac-10 this year, the Ducks are as likely a Cinderella as any of the other three or four teams in the middle of the projected standings. However, history shows a one or two win improvement is the more normal pattern so set the expectations accordingly, at least until the wicked sisters start talkin' how THEY'RE gonna be the life of the party…
Several members of this year's recruiting class who are expected to play next fall won't be on campus until the August workouts begin. Given that limitation, linebacker and offensive line particularly will remain open questions until daily doubles provide those answers. So the spring scrimmage will better serve to catch a first glimpse of any Crowton/Bellotti wrinkles the offense will add to their playbook.
Any sparkle that may provide will be welcome seeing as it's November and the sun surely won't do anything of the sort for another two months – June.
Till the next time…