Your team loses three seniors. Every other legitimate contender in your conference loses almost no one.
So you’re really the only ones who believe — most of the time, anyway — that you can win your conference again.
But when the dust settles and the positively precarious Pacific-10 season has ended, you’re the conference champion for the second season in a row.
Only this time, instead of sharing the title as you had the season before, you’ve won it outright for the first time in your school’s history.
On the individual front, two of your team’s starters, Angelina Wolvert and Shaquala Williams, are named first-team all-Pac 10 — in fact the sophomore Williams is honored as the conference’s Player of the Year, the youngest player ever to receive the award.
Two more of your players, Brianne Meharry and Lindsey Dion, pick up honorable mention accolades, which is fitting, because they’ve both in performed so admirably. Meharry took her role as sixth-player in stride, for the good of the team. Dion played though injury.
So you’re stoked, right? You’re season — despite a few bumps along the way — has been a success, right?
No. Not for the members of the No. 24 Oregon women’s basketball team a week after Alabama Birmingham prematurely ended their season at McArthur Court in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“I’m still gonna have a sour feeling about it,” Williams said. “You can’t let that opportunity slip away. Any time we get to the Tournament, that’s an opportunity to go to the Final Four.”
But you did sweep UCLA — with whom you shared the title last season — and in so doing assured everyone which of those two teams is better.
And you did pull out the second-largest comeback in school history in a 22-point second-half comeback at Arizona — and on the Wildcats senior night.
A lot of good things happened.
“The season? A little disappointing really,” said guard Jamie Craighead, a junior-to-be. “I love the fact that we won the Pac-10 outright, but, for me, we’ve been there, done that Pac-10-championship thing.
“If this team doesn’t make it past at least the Sweet 16 next year, that’s gonna be a lot of wasted talent.”
Indeed, the term “sense of urgency” might have been coined for the 2000-2001 Ducks, who only lose senior Nicole Strange to graduation.
“We’re gonna have five seniors that really want to win it next year,” said senior-to-be Angelina Wolvert immediately following Oregon’s season-ending upset loss. “I’m sure were going to do everything we can to make sure that happens.”
That means becoming consistent, head coach Jody Runge said.
“Our consistency has to improve,” Runge said. “We have to have individual players who are dependable to do certain things every game. They’re of an age group now that they should be taking responsibility for those things, you can expect a lot more out of them.”
Point guard Williams certainly does.
“That’s gotta be the biggest difference next year,” she said. “If we can get consistency from people, I don’t care if every other game somebody different steps up off the bench [which happened numerous times this season]. What’s important to me is that the same people show up every game.
“If anything we should have consistency because they’ve been there and they’ve done that, you’d expect some inconsistency from freshmen and sophomores — but not from a senior.”
Oregon will likely be tested early next season. The non conference schedule is expected to include match ups with Texas Tech, Texas, North Carolina and North Carolina State — four of the nation’s premiere programs.
“It’s gonna be great for us,” Williams said. “Because our team, for some reason, plays to the level of our competition. So if we’re playing good people, hopefully that’s gonna keep our level high.”
And there will be rematches with Santa Barbara and San Francisco, who beat the Ducks on the road this season. Next season, however, they’ll play at the Pit.
“That’ll be fun,” Craighead noted, with a slight chuckle.
One newcomer will join the Ducks in their pursuit of a third conference crown and, more importantly, at least a Sweet 16 appearance. Freshman-to-be Catharine Kraaveyeld, a 6-foot-3 small forward, will arrive forward from Kirkland, Wash.
“Catharine is a very good player,” Runge said. “She can face the basket, handle the ball and will be able to defend on the perimeter with her height.”