Pac-12 Season Preview: Oregon Ducks

Posted by Tracy McDannald on November 11th, 2014

The Pac-12 microsite will preview each of its league teams over the next few weeks, continuing today with Oregon.

Oregon Ducks

Strengths: The given is fifth-year guard Joseph Young, the dynamic leading scorer and rare returner (or so it seems these days in Eugene) for head coach Dana Altman. Young will be the do-everything playmaker tasked with keeping the Ducks’ heads above water. A distant second is a pair of freshmen, Jordan Bell and Casey Benson, who will have plenty of opportunity on a roster that tacked on five extras after October to make it appear like Oregon had a full team.

Joseph Young Will Have To Be Mr. Everything for Oregon in 2014-15. (Ryan Kang, Daily Emerald)

Joseph Young Will Have To Be Mr. Everything for Oregon in 2014-15. (Ryan Kang, Daily Emerald)

Weaknesses: Judging by the exodus in the offseason, self-discipline is high on the list. On the court, there will not be much size. Junior center Michael Chandler, a JuCo transfer from Northwest Florida State and the projected starter, is the tallest player at 6’10” but has yet to practice because of a lingering knee injury that doesn’t have a timetable for recovery. Chandler did not play in the Ducks’ exhibition opener last Tuesday. Playing the role of Captain Obvious, chemistry also will be an issue on a roster that lost 10 letterwinners.

Non-conference tests: If there was a year to play just one true non-conference road contest, this was certainly it for the Ducks. That game will take place at Illinois on December 13. The Illini received a handful of votes in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches’ preseason polls. The biggest challenge will come in two weeks at the Legends Classic in Brooklyn. On tap will be a meeting with #23/24 Michigan and either #12 Villanova or #15/16 Virginia Commonwealth.

Toughest conference stretch: Mid-to-late February will present a string of five consecutive games against teams picked to finish higher in the Pac-12 media poll – including the three picked after favorite Arizona. The not-so-lovely swing will start at UCLA on Valentine’s Day. Colorado and Utah will make the trip to Eugene in the lone meetings of the season with the Rocky Mountain schools. On the back end will be road games at California and Stanford.

If everything goes right… For starters, there would not be anymore off-court incidents. Immediate contributions and a quick learning curve from the freshmen would go a long way, too. The one saving grace will have to be Young, who is more than capable of putting a team on his back with his scoring prowess and 3-point touch. Looking at the patched together roster, the conference’s top returning scorer may have to lead the Pac-12 in scoring and be the primary facilitator to make Oregon competitive. But, hey, the Ducks still won’t have to do much to stake a claim to the title of best Pac-12 team in Oregon, right?

If nothing goes right… Well, it seems a little too late to say if doesn’t it? Thinking of the ultimate disaster scenario, Altman could feel the heat this season despite four consecutive 20-win seasons. While Young is reliable, the Ducks will be in trouble if they cannot find a viable No. 2 option. Oregon’s four top scorers after Young from a season ago must now be replaced. The worst-case scenario just may be a nightmare come true.

Projected starting lineup:

  • PG Ahmaad Rorie (Fr, 6’1”, 175 lbs.)
  • SG Joseph Young (RS Sr, 6’2”, 180 lbs., 18.9 PPG, 1.9 APG, 41.5% on 3-pointers)
  • SF Elgin Cook (RS Jr, 6’6”, 205 lbs., 6.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG)
  • PF Dwayne Benjamin (Jr, 6’7”, 210 lbs., 21.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.1 APG)
  • C Dillon Brooks (Fr, 6’6”, 225 lbs.)

Looking to help Young carry the offensive load will be Cook, who averaged 19.5 points and nine rebounds over the Ducks’ two exhibition contests. Benjamin, a JuCo transfer and one-time four-star prospect, put his own scoring abilities on display with a game-high 22 in Sunday night’s contest. In the exhibition opener last Tuesday, Young found the balance and efficiency Oregon may need from him on most nights, collecting 27 points, seven assists and just one turnover. Brooks attended powerhouse Findlay Prep while Rorie was a top-150 recruit in the 2014 class. A consistent second option will be among the early priorities.

Key reserves:

  • PG Casey Benson (Fr, 6’3”, 185 lbs.)
  • SG Jalil Abdul-Bassit (Sr, 6’4”, 197 lbs., 1.9 PPG over 17 games)
  • PF Jordan Bell (Fr, 6’9”, 215 lbs.)

Keep an eye on Bell, who is a versatile and bouncy addition to the frontcourt with a knack for the highlight-reel block. Academic issues kept Bell, a 2013 signee, from qualifying until last December. With thin options and a lack of size already, Bell’s skill and athleticism will warrant big minutes off the bench. Benson was the high school player of the year in the state of Arizona and will serve as a quality backup and outside shooter. One of the few with experience, Abdul-Bassit appeared in 17 games last season.

Tracy McDannald (18 Posts)

Tracy McDannald spent the last three years covering the Arizona Wildcats. Baseball ends when college basketball is getting ready to begin, and vice versa. Coincidence? Nope, just perfect.

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *