Pac-12 Post-Mortems: OregonPosted by Andrew Murawa on April 21st, 2014
Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll go through each Pac-12 team one by one and recount the season that has just completed and begin to turn the page to what we might see next season. Today, Oregon.
What Went Right
Bringing in offense-first transfers like Joseph Young, Jason Calliste and Mike Moser, it became clear that this was going to have to be a team that outdid opponents with relentless offense before the Ducks even played a game. And, for the most part, Dana Altman’s squad did just that. With little in the way of an offensive post player and few on the roster interested in hard-nosed defense, this became a team that wanted to get up and down the floor, find early looks for any number of shooters, get to the line on a regular basis, and score, score, score. When it worked, which it did often, the result was an entertaining, if at times frustrating, display of basketball.
What Went Wrong
As good as this team was offensively, the Ducks were pretty bad defensively. In 21 of 34 games, the Ducks allowed their opponent to score better than a point per possession and Oregon went just 11-10 in those games. Only five times all year did it hold a top-100 KenPom team under a point per possession. Part of this was a result of the make-up of the roster – undersized players and offense-first (if not –only) mindsets – but part of it also had to do with circumstance. Sophomores Dominic Artis and Ben Carter were suspended for the first nine games of the season for receiving improper benefits, and those two guys, particularly Artis, may have been among the team’s three best defensive players. In the end, while the Ducks poured in a superb 1.18 points per possession against a good Wisconsin defense in the NCAA Tournament, their own lack of defense was their downfall, as they allowed the Badgers to score 1.31 points per possession to win the game.
On a team overly dependent on offense, it is hard to name anybody other than Joseph Young as this squad’s most valuable performer. Young was spectacular all year, knocking in 41.5 percent from three, 52.8 percent from two, and 88.1 percent from the free throw line, all while taking 28.4 percent of his team’s field goal attempts when he was on the court. He had a bit of a downturn in the middle of the season, and it was no coincidence that the Ducks lost eight out of 10 games at roughly the same time, but by and large, Young was offensively impeccable this season.
Once again, there will be some significant turnover in Eugene this season, but there is some good news for Ducks fans as well. First off, five seniors – Calliste, Moser, Jonathan Loyd, Richard Amardi and Waverly Austin – have used up their collegiate eligibility and will be moving on to the next stage of their basketball careers. But there is one surprise roster change, as Carter announced his decision to transfer to UNLV after two largely uneventful years in Eugene. Little-used freshman guard A.J. Lapray will also transfer out of the program, dropping down a level to play at Pepperdine. The good news for Altman is that offensive centerpiece Young will return for his senior season after contemplating an entry into the NBA Draft.
Players Coming In
With all those guys heading out, it is no surprise that Altman has plenty of reinforcements arriving. What may be a surprise to some is that, thus far, there is just one Division I transfer on their way in – high-flying wing Brandon Austin, a troubled transfer from Providence who was a top-50 recruit last year and will be eligible at the semester break. The Ducks’ most heralded newcomer is freshman combo guard JaQuan Lyle, who took a long and circuitous route to Oregon. Between Austin and Lyle, they’ll fit in nicely around the perimeter with Young, Artis and Damyean Dotson, meaning the 2014-15 version of the Ducks could be just as offensively dangerous as this year’s team. Altman also landed 6’3” point guard Casey Benson to add some backcourt depth, although his contributions may come a couple of years down the line. The rest of the 2014 class is made up of frontcourt guys, all of whom will get a chance for immediate minutes: 6’9” Canadian power forward Ray Kasongo, JuCo transfer Michael Chandler (a 6’10” center), and JuCo transfer Dwayne Benjamin (a bouncy 6’6” player who is more of a frontcourt wing than an interior grinder). And since Altman’s program has earned a reputation as a welcome landing spot for Division I transfers, it should be noted that with Carter’s outgoing transfer, the Ducks have one open scholarship and will certainly be interested in any available frontcourt transfers that are seeking a new home.
Reason for Hope
With defensive liabilities like Loyd, Calliste, and (to a lesser extent) Moser gone, the Ducks have the potential to be about as good offensively next season while significantly better on the defensive end. Artis needs to regain the mojo he had early in his freshman year, but he’s a significant defensive upgrade over Loyd provided he can run the offense. Likewise, Dotson should see his minutes rise in his junior campaign and he has the potential to be a lockdown perimeter defender next season. When all is said and done, the 2014-15 Ducks may actually be an athletic upgrade over this year’s already wildly bouncy team.
Reason For Concern
Right now, the Ducks frontcourt is 6’6” Elgin Cook and, hmmmm, well, nobody else, until that 2014 recruiting class shows up on campus. Barring a big-time graduate transfer up front (Jon Horford and Moses Ayegba are a couple of the better names available), Kasongo and Chandler are going to have to step into big roles immediately in order for the Ducks to put up any form of frontcourt resistance.
B. They were an entertaining squad that won an NCAA Tournament game, had two different winning streaks of eight or more games, and played some very fun basketball games. The fact that they probably left five or six games on the table – including one that would have given the program its second-straight Sweet Sixteen appearance – due to an inability to competently defend, may gnaw at Altman over the offseason, but all things considered, this was a fine season at Matt Knight Court.