Are we about to see stability in an Oregon roster? As we preview college basketball teams, all we have to base prognostications upon are returning players. If you’ve paid any attention to Oregon, they’ve been the butt of every transfer-centric joke the past 3-4 years. When you gain the reputation as TransferU in modern college basketball, that’s saying something. Now returning minutes has rarely proven to mean much regarding future success. But it’s also rarely hurt anyone, either. So I repeat, are we about to see what a consistent Oregon roster is or can do?
Why I love them
Because I know them. And here’s your warning: Look out for Jordan Bell (yeah, yeah recovering from foot surgery. But when has that ever really affected a big man?). I like him for Pac-12 defensive player of the year. I said it. But enough about an individual. We’ve seen the players Dana will coach play and play well. To lose Joe Young (POY!) is a challenge, but if Dana’s proven anything, he can coach an offense (and a defense in 2013). He hasn’t had a player like Bell since Arsalan Kazemi (yes, that kinda comparison) and players make their biggest jump from freshman to sophomore year. Bell? 113.5 Ortg, 8.9% OReb, 19.3% DReb (9th in conf), 11.3% Blk% (21st nationally). And what’s that you say? There will be a dearth of scoring? There’s a recruit for that in 5-star Tyler Dorsey and a possible FR-Soph leap for Dillon Brooks (106/23, 12/5/2, 46%, 38%, 83%). And what’s that you say? There won’t be a veteran at the point? There’s a transfer for that in Nova transfer Dylan Ennis (109 ORtg, 21% usage, 10/4/4). And what’s that you say? The Ducks were small in the front court last year? Well there’s a transfer for that too in Juco National Player of the year 6’10” Chris Boucher. And Bill Walton calls Dwayne Benjamin “Snoop.”
Why I hate them
Because I know them. Aside from last year, we’ve never seen a less proven Ducks team. They’ve had All-Conference transfers, players with years of collegiate grind. This is a group of kids who got hot behind the hottest player in America. And even heading in to last season, at least we knew it’d be the Joe Young show and he wound up the conference POY. He had a 30% shot rate and played 91.1% of available minutes (37 mpg). Only Elgin Cook got on the floor at a higher-than-70% rate. For the first time the scoring load will be in a freshman’s hands as opposed to a proven veteran (read: transfer). We might’ve seen Dillon Brooks’ ceiling, a Jordan Loveridge 2.0. Bill Walton calls Dwayne Benjamin “Snoop.”
Stat you must know: 61%
Percentage of total minutes played returning to the Ducks. Context? Last year they returned 24% from the season prior (three players). This is the most amount of returning minutes Dana has seen since joining the Ducks.
What I learned at Media Day
Thanks, Dana, for really validating my question:
PacHoops: This is seemingly one of your most contiguous lineups. Has that changed the way you’ve been able to prepare for this season?
DANA ALTMAN: A little bit, just, you know, with Elgin’s experience, Dwyane’s experience, those two seniors coming back, Dillon Brooks, Casey. Jordan is injured right now, so he’s not practicing, but that does give you a tremendous core to work with. Dylan Ennis, a fifth‑year guy, has a lot of D‑1 experience and he’s been easy to work with. I think we’ve got a group that hopefully will make progress, and we still have a lot of new faces to work in. That’s the exciting thing. We’ve got three talented freshmen that I think will be pretty good, a junior college transfer. I think our new guys, and I think we can make progress with them.
Rock top (best case scenario)
Jordan Bell just blocked your shot. The loose ball is snatched up by Dylan Ennis who’s already two eyes up the court. He understands he has Tyler Dorsey drifting for a corner three. He also knows he has lane he can create on his own or he can find Cook streaking for the easy slam. That’s what an Altman offense + defense could mean. Not only do the Ducks win the conference, but they’re unanimously the most fun team to watch. With a full roster (and a shorter shot clock), Dana’s trap zones are wildly effective. Offense + Defense = Sweet 16.