Pac-12 Team Previews: Oregon Ducks

Posted 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.

It’s Tough To Find A Picture Of A Guy That Only Played 14 Minutes in 2011-12, But We Did It. Lucenti Could Possibly Be Oregon’s Starter At Shooting Guard Come November 10. (credit: Eric Evans)

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.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.12.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 12th, 2012

  1. One of the things we love about college basketball is that every year, there are loads and loads of teams with brand new looks. You’ve got freshmen coming in and transfers and kids back from injuries. The entire makeup of a team can change from year to year, for better or for worse. This year in the Pac-12 is no different, but in some cases, these changes seem to be a bit more extreme than normal, with several teams across the conference ready to unveil a completely remade roster. Today, as practices kick off around the country, we’ll take a look at five of those teams, beginning with Utah, where second-year head coach Larry Krystkowiak welcomes in a roster that returns just two scholarship players from last year’s 6-25 team. Given the depths to which the talent level plunged in Salt Lake City last year, the remake was desperately needed, and Krystkowiak is certain that the team is ready to be much more competitive. With 10 new scholarship faces on the roster, the battle for time is tight and ongoing, with the head man mentioning that the Ute starting lineup may be a shifting five over the course of the year.
  2. As bad as the Utes were last year, USC was even worse, limping (quite literally) home to a 1-17 record. Along the way, the Trojans turned into the walking wounded with dozens, if not hundreds, of players (overstatement is of use here) lost for the season to injury. But not only does Kevin O’Neill have many of those players coming back from last year’s injuries, but he’s got transfers galore and, all told, plenty of talent up and down the bench. Never one for understatement, O’Neill last season called then sophomore center DeWayne Dedmon a future NBA lottery pick, while this year he is going out on a limb and projecting Rice transfer Omar Oraby as a future 12- or 13-year pro, although USC is still waiting on word from the NCAA as to whether he’ll receive a waiver to be able to play this year. But O’Neill is most excited about getting back the services of senior point guard Jio Fontan, whom he calls the heart and soul of the team.
  3. Washington State’s 2011-12 season was slightly more successful than either of the above teams’, but like both USC and Utah, the Cougs will unveil a new-look squad as well. Brock Motum returns after his breakout junior season, as does returning starter DaVonte Lacy and four other players, but things are going to have to be different in Pullman this season. But despite being minus recently-dismissed point guard Reggie Moore, head coach Ken Bone thinks this will be a better team than last year, with the combo of Lacy and Kansas-transfer Royce Woolridge being an upgrade over the would-be senior. And Bone hopes that the Cougs’ underdog status will help the squad “pull together.” Reading between the lines a bit, it seems I may not be the only one who thinks the loss of Moore could turn out to be addition by subtraction.
  4. Oregon advanced to the NIT last season, but after five graduating seniors and three freshmen transferring out of the program last year, the Ducks were in need of a talent infusion of their own. Enter a five-man freshman class, two junior college transfers, and Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi (who is appealing to the NCAA for immediate eligibility), and returnee EJ Singler, for one, is excited about the additional size and athleticism added to Dana Altman’s roster. The number of new players could jump to nine once the football season ends, assuming freshman Arik Armstead joins the team in January, but the number could have even been 10. However, junior college transfer Devon Branch opted not to enroll at UO for the fall semester, instead opting to go the Division II route, which would give him one more season of eligibility than he would have had in Eugene.
  5. The roster makeover for Washington is not as massive as in any of the above four stops, but the Huskies are without their two highest profile stars from last season’s Pac-12 regular season champion. Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten Jr. left eligibility on the table when they split for the NBA, but it was no secret that last year’s squad underachieved in part due to chemistry issues that never got fully resolved. Lorenzo Romar commented on Twitter that this team has the chemistry and attitude that the coaching staff appreciates, a remark that seems to draw a direct comparison to last year’s squad. Put on your special glasses and it might as well read: “last year’s team had no chemistry because there were too many guys worried about getting the credit.” There’s still plenty of talent up in Seattle, with proven upperclassmen Abdul Gaddy, C.J. Wilcox and Aziz N’Diaye leading the way, so if the intangibles shift a little in the right direction, the 2012-13 edition of the Huskies could be an improvement on last year’s more talented squad.
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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 09.27.12

Posted by AMurawa on September 27th, 2012

  1. Yesterday we told you about Reggie Moore’s sudden dismissal from the Washington State program on the doorstep of the season, but Oregon has also had a bit of a shakeup on its roster over the past week. Dana Altman landed Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi this week as well as junior college transfer Waverly Austin, while saying goodbye to another JuCo transfer, Devon Branch, who had yet to actually put on an Oregon uniform. Of the three, the biggest news is the addition of Kazemi, the nation’s first Iranian-born Division I player, who also happens to be one of the most underrated players in the nation. In three years at Rice, he never finished lower than #37 in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage, taking second as a sophomore and third as a junior (according to Kazemi will apply for a hardship waiver from the NCAA to become able to play this season, but if denied, he will play his senior year in 2013-14 in Eugene. If eligible for the Ducks this season, he should step immediately into the starting lineup, giving UO an imposing and experienced front line, made up perhaps of Tony Woods, E.J. Singler and Kazemi, three seniors. As for Austin, he’s a 6’11” center who averaged 14.8 points, 9.3 boards and almost three blocks per game last season at Palm Beach State College on his way to earning JuCo All-American honors. He originally committed to South Florida but was denied admission, although he has qualified by NCAA standards (it raises the question about whether USF really has higher standards than UO). It never hurts to have more size, and Austin could wind up having a major impact for the Ducks this season.
  2. The Ducks also landed a pair of intriguing ’13 recruits this week as well when they got commitments from twins Tyree and Tyrell Robinson. The pair of recruits from San Diego are, however, first and foremost football recruits who will play for Chip Kelly’s vaunted Oregon team. But once that season ends (given how good UO is, expect that to usually be in January sometime), the Robinsons will give up the helmet and shoulder pads for baggy shorts and tank tops. While both are expected to be serious contributors on the gridiron, their late arrival to the hardwood could limit their growth, but both players are talented. Tyree is the better of the two, a physical shooting guard who is great off the dribble and capable of knocking down the three, but neither of these guys should be considered elite basketball prospects. At best, they’ll likely be contributors off the bench for the Ducks.
  3. Elsewhere on the recruiting trail, California continues to work towards scoring a big 2013 class. With Jabari Bird and Jordan Matthews already in the fold, head coach Mike Montgomery is heavily involved with a number of other elite recruits, ranging from Aaron Gordon to Jabari Parker to Julius Randle and others. But for one recruit, the Golden Bears have reached finalist status. Marcus Lee, a 6’8” top 30 recruit from Cal’s backyard has narrowed his decision down to the Berkeley campus or John Calipari and Kentucky. But, as Rob Dauster points out, UK is already well on its way to a strong 2013 class of its own, so if Lee chooses Lexington, he could be in a dogfight for playing time. Let’s go ahead and pencil Lee in as a Golden Bear.
  4. Lastly, there was good news for UCLA fans reported last week by Adam Zagoria. According to a post on Zag’s Blog, he expects Kyle Anderson will be cleared to play by the NCAA. Anderson’s amateurism has been under investigation by the NCAA due to concerns over his relationship with agent Thad Foucher, but apparently the NCAA has been unable to find any evidence of improper benefits. That leaves classmate Shabazz Muhammad as the next big domino for UCLA head coach Ben Howland. Muhammad remains under investigation for financial benefits that he received from Benjamin Lincoln and Ken Kavanagh, two guys who Muhammad’s family claims as “family friends.” As of yet, there is no new information on the Muhammad investigation.
  5. So, after four weeks of college football, Connor holds a four-game lead over me in our prognostication battle. As we shift now to primarily conference battles the rest of the way, we’ll have fewer games to pick, but hopefully they’ll be, by and large, more competitive. Here’s our picks for this week, with our game of the week pick in bold:
Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
Stanford at Washington Stanford Washington
Arizona State at California California Arizona State
Oregon at Washington State Oregon Oregon
Oregon State at Arizona Oregon State 30-27 Arizona 27-24
UCLA at Colorado UCLA UCLA


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Oregon Week: Incoming Freshman Dominic Artis Bolsters Seven Newcomers

Posted by Connor Pelton on August 11th, 2012

On the heels of last year’s good recruiting class, head coach Dana Altman landed a huge six-man class this season, signing two recruits from traditional southern Nevada powerhouses, a pair of small forwards from southeastern Texas, and two shooting guards from a midwestern high school and community college, respectively. We’ll also take a look at a much-needed lane clogging big man who redshirted in 2011-12. We’ll break all seven of them down below, roughly in the order of the contributions we expect from them.

Dominic Artis, Freshman, Point Guard, 5’11” 165 lbs, Findlay College Prep, Henderson, NV – Artis’ height and frame will remind Duck fans of former Oregon point guard Aaron Brooks. He is a speedster with handles and his slight frame allows him to easily fit into seams in the defense and find teammates around the perimeter. He is definitely able to knock down the three-point ball, but consistency is a whole different matter. If he wants to really make an impact this season, Artis needs to keep defenders from focusing on E.J. Singler and Carlos Emory down low and be a threat from behind the arc. Regardless, the freshman could find his way onto the court with tight, lockdown defense. Oregon’s D outside of the paint last season was mediocre at best, bordering on bad, and with their best defender in Devoe Joseph graduating, there is a need for a new top defender. It’s tough for any point guard to be an impact immediately in a power conference, but Artis definitely has the most talent, and potential, of all seven newcomers. With the departure of Garrett Sim, Artis is in a prime position to replace his minutes. The only question remains is this: Will Oregon’s star recruit transfer two games or less into the season, as last year’s did?

Artis Makes Up For What He Lacks In Size With Quickness (credit: Jann Hendry)

Damyean Dotson, Freshman, Small Forward, 6’6” 181 lbs, Jack Yates Senior High School, Houston, TX – Once again we meet a player who could earn early minutes thanks to his defensive ability. Dotson can guard the one, two, or three, but is tough enough to rebound down low as well. He also has a long wingspan, making him a shot-blocking threat. According to reports, Dotson will do a lot of damage as a help defender and trapper when the Ducks are in a zone. As a senior at Jack Yates HS, Dotson averaged 21 PPG and 5 RPG, good enough to garner the title of 2012 Greater Houston Player of the Year by the Houston Chronicle. He had offers from Dayton, Colorado, and Georgetown, among others, before deciding on Oregon.

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