March Madness Memories: Luke Ridnour
Editor’s Note: Timberwolves.com prepares you for this year’s NCAA tournament by taking a look back at four Wolves’ memorable March Madness runs. In Part 2 of this four-part series, Luke Ridnour helps lead Oregon to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1960.
Email / Twitter
Prior to the 2001-02 season, the Oregon men’s basketball team hadn’t made a trip to the Elite Eight in four decades. During that span, the Ducks only made the NCAA tournament three times, losing all three of their first round matchups.
But things changed during Wolves guard Luke Ridnour’s sophomore year. Under fifth-year coach Ernie Kent, the Ducks broke had a breakout season, winning the Pac-10 regular season title for the first time in school history before making a run to within a game of the Final Four.
“I felt like we may have a good team,” Ridnour said. “We all kind of gelled together, and lucky for us we made a good run.”
Ridnour had a strong all-around year at guard for the Ducks, finishing the season averaging 15.5 points and 5.0 assists. Oregon went on to finish 26-9, a run that included a six-game winning streak in the first half of the season and another six-game winning streak that led into the second round of the Pac-10 tournament, which Oregon lost 89-78 to Southern California.
Growing up in Washington, Ridnour said Oregon wasn’t necessarily a school he thought about attending as a kid. But when he visited campus and met his potential teammates and coaches, he knew it was the right spot for him.
Even before the team started winning, Ridnour said the Ducks held a strong home-court advantage.
“Even before I got there and they weren’t really winning, the fans were into it,” he said. “The gym was packed, (McArthur) Court is a great place to play. All that played into the role for me to go there, and to be part of that was something fun.”
Oregon held the No. 2 seed and defeated Montana, Wake Forest and Texas on its way to the Regional Final against Kansas. The Jayhawks were the top seed in the Midwest Regional, played in Madison, Wis., and their offense was too potent in a 104-86 victory over the Ducks.
Kansas went on to lose to eventual champion Maryland in the Final Four.
“It was a tough loss,” Ridnour said. “They were a good team, a really good team. We battled them. It was tough because we worked so hard to get there, and you’re one game away from the Final Four and to not get there was tough. But all around you look back on it, it was a great experience.”
Ridnour won two state championships during his high school career, and he said playing in the NCAA tournament is similar to making a high school state run—the school spirit and the one-and-done pressure is there for both. He said the college tournament is just at a much larger scale.
“Winning a state championship was right up there, too, but college basketball is something,” Ridnour said. “The players are all so good, and playing at that level, it’s something I’ll never forget.”
For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.