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.