Pac-12 Team Previews: Oregon DucksPosted by Connor Pelton on October 22nd, 2012
Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Oregon Ducks.
Strengths: After having to share the spotlight with Devoe Joseph and Garrett Sim last season, E.J. Singler will get all the touches he can handle in 2012-13. The senior forward has the skill set to make an All-Pac-12 list by season’s end, but he’ll need some help so opponents don’t key in solely on him all game long. That’s where Arsalan Kazemi comes in. A late transfer from Rice, Kazemi had been projected by many to win the C-USA Player of the Year award in many preseason publications. Now he’s in Eugene, where head coach Dana Altman has described him as the best player in practice so far this October. Assuming the NCAA grants him a hardship waiver to play immediately, the Ducks go from a fringe NIT team to the NCAA bubble.
Weaknesses: If you’re wondering who will start in the backcourt, you’re in the same boat as Altman. Junior Johnathan Loyd will get the nod at the one spot, but while his passing game is one of the best in the league, his scoring ability leaves much to be desired. Whoever starts at the two is anyone’s guess, and we likely won’t know until the season opener against Northern Arizona. It could be junior walk-on Nicholas Lucenti, who played in all of five games last year for an astounding average of 0.0 PPG. Or it could very well be one of the six newcomers at the guard spot for 2012-13. Either way, the Ducks are going to be relying heavily on post play to put some points on the scoreboard.
Non-Conference Tests: The Ducks will face four stiff non-conference tests this season, three of which will come in an eight-day span in late November. Oregon will host Vanderbilt on November 16, and just seven days later will face #17 UNLV (RTC Poll used in this post) in the Thomas & Mack Center. Their strength of schedule would get a major boost if they faced a fringe Top 25 club in Cincinnati the next day instead of Iowa State. The final test will come on New Year’s Eve at Matthew Knight Arena against a possible NCAA bubble team in Nevada.
Toughest Conference Stretch: The Ducks will play their toughest six-game conference stretch from January 19 to February 7. Beginning with a game in Los Angeles against #7 UCLA and ending with a visit from Colorado, Oregon will host both Washington schools and make their Bay Area trip in-between. If the Ducks can get through this stretch with a .500 record, that bodes well for an upper-half finish in the conference standings. Anything less than that and it would mean they don’t protect home court advantage, which is year in and year out a recipe for disaster in the Pac-12.
If Everything Goes Right… Three days before the season tips off against the Lumberjacks, Kazemi is cleared by the NCAA. Players like Tony Woods, Devon Branch, and Dominic Artis contribute immediately and take some of the load off Singler and Kazemi. Woods is a rebounding machine, finally taking advantage of his size after showing flashes of greatness last year. Loyd and Branch provide a formidable one-two punch at guard, but Artis is the real surprise. Struggling to score from the perimeter, Altman turns to Artis and the two newcomers put on a show up a top. The Ducks finish non-conference play at 12-1 and Pac-12 play at an even .500, but an early exit in Las Vegas leaves them on Joe Lunardi’s “Last Four Out” list on Selection Sunday.
If Nothing Goes Right… Kazemi’s hardship waiver is denied, and preferring to play immediately at a lower level, transfers out days before the season begins. Carlos Emory isn’t ready to take on a big role in the post, and Singler is swarmed by opponents all game long. Artis is a nice surprise, but the inexperienced Ducks struggle to put points on the board. A road win against UNLV provides some brief excitement for the program, but it is quickly snuffed out when the Ducks finish non-conference play with a 7-6 record. Oregon shows signs of improvement; the road wins at the Galen Center and Maples Pavilion were nice, but lapses at home against Washington State and Oregon State mean a #9 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament. The Ducks bow out in the first round and win a game in the CBI before the season comes to a complete close.
Projected Starting Lineup
- PG Johnathan Loyd (Jr, 5’8” 165 lbs, 3.3 PPG, 1.4 RPG)
- SG Devon Branch (Jr, 6’5” 175 lbs)
- C Tony Woods (Sr, 6’11” 250 lbs, 6.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG)
- F E.J. Singler (Sr, 6’6” 215 lbs, 13.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG)
- F Arsalan Kazemi (Sr, 6’7” 220 lbs)
Depending on what the situation calls for and who has the better of the preseason practices, it could be either Loyd or Artis at the point guard. If Kazemi’s waiver is denied, Emory will have to step in at the four. Branch shot nearly 50% from beyond the three-point line with Cloud County CC last season, so if he can put up anything close to those numbers he will definitely earn the starting spot at shooting guard. Woods has apparently added a mid-range jumper to his game, and combined with his stellar defense and big body, he is a no-brainer for the starting center position.
- PG Dominic Artis (Fr, 6’1” 185 lbs)
- SG/SF Damyean Dotson (Fr, 6’5” 195 lbs)
- C Waverly Austin (Jr, 6’11” 275 lbs)
- F Carlos Emory (Sr, 6’6” 225 lbs, 6.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG)
- PF Ben Carter (Fr, 6’8”, 228 lbs)
The unknown can be scary, but it is pretty intriguing as well. Artis and Dotson are both very skilled players, and while I’m not yet ready to say they’ll beat out Loyd and Branch, I think Dotson definitely has more scoring ability than Lucenti. Austin averaged nearly 15/10 last year at Palm Beach State College, but he will need to step things up on the defensive side of the court in order to get solid minutes behind Woods. Emory needs to step up in his senior season in case Singler or Kazemi have to sit with foul trouble.