GLENDALE, Ariz. - It might be a pipe dream, but let's at least entertain the possibility that Oregon stars Dillon Brooks, Jordan Bell and Tyler Dorsey all could return next season.
All three left the door open following the team's 77-76 loss to North Carolina Saturday in the Final Four played at University of Phoenix Stadium.
"I'm not too sure," Brooks said when asked about his plans. "I'm going to go through the process and take my time with it."
Bell and Dorsey made similar statements.
If they were to return, the Ducks could very well be voted as the preseason No. 1-ranked team in the nation and picked as the favorite to capture the 2018 national championship.
This season will go down as one of historical significance for a program that hadn't made it that far since winning it all in 1939. That didn't lessen the sour feelings in a dejected locker room following defeat. So why not return to take care of unfinished business?
Money is always an allure, along with the dream of playing in the NBA. All of that would still be there for all these three in 2018 with only the fear of injury serving as a potential deterrent.
There's something else, also; the possibility that none of the three is truly ready for the NBA, or will have much of a career in the association to begin with.
Bell has played his way into being projected by some mock drafts as a potential late first-round pick. Brooks is projected by most to join senior Chris Boucher in the second round. Dorsey's hot postseason has landed him on some second-round lists. Each could conceivably improve his stock by returning and increase his chances of going higher in the 2018 draft.
That all, of course, is easy to write from a laptop. Each has a lot of issues to consider, including what's best for their respective families. But from a pure basketball perspective, there are ample reasons for all three to return, but chances are that just one, maybe two, decide to come back.
Here's a look at the probability each man returning for another season at Oregon:
Dillon Brooks, Jr., forward, projected second-round pick: Brooks actually should probably leave. He's accomplished so much already and will go down as one of the program's greats. He improved his outside shooting over last season, and he demonstrate great fire, rim attacking ability and all-around defensive skills. He likely won't be a starter for a good NBA team, but he could contribute as a bench player and have some productive years. Returning to Oregon for the Pac-12 player of the year and second-team All-American, and duplicating that success, could thrust Brooks into the first round nexts year.
What will he do?: 80 percent chance he leaves: Brooks explored the draft last season before wisely returning. He's tasted injury this season (foot) and probably won't want to risk a more serious setback next season.
Jordan Bell, Jr., forward, projected first or second round: Bell has the best pro potential of the three. He is already an NBA-caliber rebounder and shot blocker. His offense, however, won't cut it at the next level. He did demonstrate dramatic improvement in that area this season. Should he return to add more post moves and demonstrate an ability to stick the short jump shot that many teams give him, Bell could play his way into the lottery.
What will he do?: 50/50. Bell has improved every season and would take another big step if he were to return. It's difficult enough for big men to adjust to the NBA, let alone one with a very marginal offensive game. Bell should come back next season and raise his 10.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game this season to a cool 15 and 10 next season.
Tyler Dorsey, So., guard, projected second-round pick to undrafted: Dorsey, who explored the draft last season, appeared to be a lock to return after a wildly inconsistent season before he went off during the postseason, raising his stock. He crushed it in the Pac-12 Tournament and during the first four games of the NCAA Tournament, averaging 23.5 points per game while hitting on 57.5 percent of his three-point attempts. His showing should be enough to make him a second-round pick. However, there are red flags. First off; he had 14 games during the regular season where he made three or fewer field goals with six games of one or zero shots made. Did his supreme tournament showing erase all of that from the minds of scouts? Probably not. Plus, at 6-4 he struggled mightily against North Carolina's perimeter length. The 6-8 Justin Jackson and the 6-6 Theo Pinson were able to prevent Dorsey from getting his shot, harassing him into a 3-of-11 shooting night. Dorsey did, however, finish with 21 points thanks to his ability to get to the free throw line and make all 12 of his attempts from there.
Dorsey isn't a point guard and might not be athletic or big enough to consistently get his shot in the NBA. He does, however, potentially have a future as a three-point marksman off the bench, but only if he becomes more consistent from long distance.
He could develop in that area next season.
What will he do?: 25 percent chance he leaves. Dorsey needs to stay another season to show that he can do over an entire season what he did during the postseason. If Brooks leaves, Dorsey becomes the lead scorer and could raise his average from 14.6 this season to 20, or more. Even if Brooks stays, Dorsey could raise his scoring average to 18 simply by drastically reducing the number of horrid performances he puts forth.
Oregon's lineup next season would be ridiculous if all three returned to play alongside guards, Payton Pritchard, Casey Benson, and a hopefully an improved Kavell Bigby-Williams in the middle. Plus, the Ducks welcome in a strong recruiting class led by five-star, and probably one-and-done guard Troy Brown.
It would be a roster that could certainly get back to the Final Four and bring back a companion for hte 1939 trophy.
But it probably won't happen.
Or could it?