CORVALLIS — February is a month that brings out the inner curmudgeon in all of us.
The weather is dreary, day after day. Football is a fading memory. Pitchers and catchers report, but nostalgia aside, it’s hard to get excited about grown men playing catch.
February is especially brutal if you root for a basketball team that can’t get its act together. So if you see an Oregon fan, give them a hug and a ticket to a women’s game.
The Ducks lost 72-57 Saturday night at Oregon State, following a script that’s become all too familiar. Oregon looked like the better team walking into the arena. The Ducks played well in stretches, just long enough to get your hopes up.
When it mattered, the Ducks fell apart. They went more than nine minutes without a field goal in the middle of the game, allowing a seven-point lead to become a eight-point deficit.
Then, after rallying to regain the lead, the Ducks made three shots over the final 7 1/2 minutes and crumbled down the stretch.
Once again, Payton Pritchard played deep into the second half before making a shot. Kenny Wooten scored four points and grabbed two rebounds. When two of your best players combine to play 66 minutes and go 2-for-6 from the field, that’s a problem.
“We need certain people to be more of an offensive presence,” senior Paul White said.
So it goes for a team that has all the charisma of a pet snail. You prod it occasionally, looking for signs of life. Did it move? Is it growing? Nope, still just sitting there, sucking on the side of the aquarium.
Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it’s February and I haven’t seen the sun in several weeks. And you want to know what’s worse? There are still three more weeks of this before the Pac-12 Tournament finally puts some of these teams out of their misery.
Sorry, but this Pac-12 season is starting to bum me out. At first it was fun, watching the basketball equivalent of mud wrestling. Anyone can win! Everyone’s desperate! Who are these people, anyway?
Now it’s just getting sad. Watching Pac-12 basketball this year, sometimes you just want to scream, “Can’t anyone play this @$*!ing game?!?”
Take nothing away from the Beavers. They’re a gutty bunch who might finish 9-9 in an average year of Pac-12 basketball. This year, they’re 8-4 and alone in second place, closing in on a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
“We just bring our hard hats and lunch pails every day,” coach Wayne Tinkle said. “Guys are dialed in.”
This was Oregon State’s first Civil War sweep since 2010, and the Beavers celebrated it with gusto. As they should. If you bleed black and orange, beating the Ducks is always sweet, no matter the circumstances.
For everyone else, let’s be honest. There’s no great distinction in beating the Ducks this year. They’ve shown us who they are, again and again.
Against Texas Southern. Against UCLA and Washington. Against Oregon State — twice.
The Ducks simply aren’t very good. The idea that they’re suddenly going to find a switch that morphs them into an NCAA Tournament team — in the middle of February, no less — remains sheer fantasy.
On the plus side, you can officially dispense with any bracketology or bubble talk. It appears I can go an entire season without troubling myself with the new NET rankings or the quadrant system, and for that small miracle, I am thankful.
About everything else, I’m feeling like a curmudgeon. Don’t get me wrong — the women’s basketball in this state has been awesome. Friday night at Matthew Knight Arena was spectacular. Monday night at Gill Coliseum should be just as good.
Sandwiched between those games, this one felt like a bad intermission.
It’s frustrating to watch the Ducks, to see them making the same mistakes they made in November and think back on what this season was supposed to be. It seems like ages ago that Oregon was buzzing about arrival of Bol Bol and a preseason top-15 ranking.
Now the Ducks are 15-10, out of at-large consideration, stuck in a miserable Pac-12 logjam and barely halfway through the most interminable month of the year.
“This isn’t the end,” White said.
Unfortunately, he’s right.