KANSAS CITY - Oregon senior forward Chris Boucher expected to be an integral part of the Ducks' run at a Final Four appearance.
His shot blocking, rebounding, inside and outside scoring prowess figured to help UO make such a run. Then, it all came crashing down for Boucher while attempting to block a shot against California during the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament two weekends ago in Las Vegas, Nev.
The next day, Boucher was ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. He since has been relegated to cheerleader while the No. 3 Ducks (32-5) have carved out a path to the Elite Eight where they will face No. 1 Kansas (31-4) on Saturday night.
"Well, it's been hard for sure, but seeing my team getting into the tournament and all covers for it a little bit," Boucher said today during media availability at the Sprint Center. "You always want to be on the floor and play. Definitely hurts sometimes to watch them do it so good and you can't do anything about it."
Senior guard Dylan Ennis can relate. He missed virtually all of last season with a foot injury that forced him to watch Oregon reach the Elite Eight without him.
"As a senior, I know how hard it is and lucky I got my year back, but him going through this his senior year he's been a big part of this and especially with him on the bench he's so encouraging and he's taken that role as being the next coach, that positive reinforcement," Ennis said. "So everything he is doing we can't be more grateful for him."
Oregon lost the Pac-12 Tournament championship game to Arizona without Boucher, but has won three NCAA Tournament games since. Still, it's obvious that the Ducks miss his 11.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots per game. Losing him has placed more pressure on junior forward Jordan Bell to protect the rim.
"We lost our advantage with the blocks with Chris," Altman said. "We were averaging almost seven blocks a game with him, and I think in the four games without him now I think we have eight total. So Jordan has become a little less aggressive with his blocks, trying to stay out of foul trouble. He's done a great job of picking up rebounding. Chris was our second leading rebounder and third leading scorer besides being the guy who blocked the most shots. Defensively we've slipped. Our numbers in the last four games are not as good as they were previous to him going down. So we've tried to make up for that a little bit offensively."
To do what he can, Boucher said he watches games intently looking for details he can pass on to teammates.
"I'm just trying to help my team and tell them what I could see from the bench and they could go from there," Boucher said.
It's something, but not what Boucher and Ducks had planned for his role to be during this this time of the season.