Oregon Preview

Here is the first review/preview for the upcoming Pac10 Basketball season.  It might seem arbitrary that I’ve chosen a look at the ducks first, but it’s the club I know best and for that reason, will be the easiest to do.  So…O

It’s certainly no secret the Oregon Ducks struggled mightily this past year. Only a season removed from an NCAA appearance, and two seasons removed from an elite eight run, the 08-09 Ducks finished the season with eight total wins.  Of those eight wins, just two came in Pacific 10 conference play.  Why were they so bad?  They were young.  The Ducks had one lone senior available for the entirety of the season, Churchill Odia.  Five freshmen: Michael Dunigan, Josh Crittle, Matthew Humphrey, Drew Wiley, and Garrett Sim played significant minutes as head coach Ernie Kent struggled to find a consistent group.  The young players showed promise at times but were wildly inconsistent. Coach Kent took a lot of heat for the difficulties the Ducks faced and at the end of the year met with former Athletic Director Pat Kilkenny about his future.  Not long after that infamous meeting, Kent decided to let go of his long time assistant Mark Hudson in favor of venerable Arizona assistant Mike Dunlap. Dunlap brings an impressive resume to Oregon, including two NCAA division 2 championships and a stop in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets.  Around Eugene there is a palpable feeling that Dunlap will bring much needed energy and direction to the program.

So what does the future hold for Oregon?  Well, the Ducks only lost three players this off-season.  Seniors Churchill Odia and Frantz Dorsainvil have run out of eligibility while sophomore point guard Kamyron Brown transferred under suspicious circumstances.  (Rumors suggest the coaching staff essentially told him there wasn’t a spot for him.)   But the feeling around the program is that the incoming talent should be more than sufficient to cover the losses. The blue-chip of the class is Wisconsin product, and Rivals top 150 recruit, Jamil Wilson, a 6’7” forward.  Apparently Wilson is the complete package with the ability to play both inside and out.  The Ducks also signed Oregon player of the year E.J. Singler, younger brother of Duke star Kyle Singler.  Most believe he isn’t of his brother’s caliber, but he’s a tough kid and should be a solid player in the future.  Lastly the Ducks signed forward Jeremy Jacob and point guard Malcolm Armstead from powerhouse Florida powerhouse, Chipola junior college.  Obviously the coaching staff is hoping the transfers will add immediate depth and experience to a club that sorely lacked steady hands.

More important than the off-season additions however is the return of every player who either started or saw significant minutes.  With another year under their belts, the young guys should be ready for the grueling Pac10 season.

At center, former McDonalds All-American Mike Dunigan has the sheer athletic talent to be a great player in the league but he needs to improve his footwork, along with his touch around the basket.  Dunigan also has some sort of ridiculous penchant for foul trouble, he can’t seem to stay out of it.  Josh Crittle, the lesser known of the two sophomore centers to-be, actually was more consistent than his more notorious counterpart.  Crittle flashed good touch around the basket and usually managed to stay on the floor.  Reports claim that both of the young big-men have shed considerable weight for the upcoming season.  Either way, after last year’s over-whelming trial by fire, the centers should be ready for the quality and size of players in the conference.  Especially when considering conference stalwarts like John Brockman and Jeff Pendergraph have moved on to the NBA.

The guard spots seem to be the most settled.  At shooting guard is the predictably mercurial Tajuan Porter.  The 5’6” shooter is almost lights out when he’s open off the ball but struggles badly when asked to create for others.  For his size he’s not a bad defender, but has been bothered in the past by rangy defenders.  He has a decent pull-up jumper but is inconsistent when asked to finish in the lane.  Look for Tajuan’s play to improve with growth at the point guard position. Transfer Malcolm Armstead is rumored to be a steady player, and Garrett Sim proved that he was dangerous when “on.”  The competition should certainly help. If the Ducks do manage to get good point guard play, Tajuan will have the opportunity to do what he does best, spot up and shoot.

Predicting the starters at the forward spots is nearly impossible.  Senior Joevan Catron is a leading candidate.  He’s a quick but undersized power forward with nifty moves, but he tends to disappear for long stretches.  Also over the course of the years Catron hasn’t demonstrated the ability to shoot very well.  Chances are, sweet shooting big-man Drew Wiley and newcomers Jamil Wilson and Jeremy Jacob will push for time at the 4 spot.  Wiley plays a bit like a guard and needs badly to improve his strength, especially in his hands.  I can vividly recall rebounds being ripped away from him.  Jamil Wilson may have the ball skills and quickness to pose match-up problems at the 4 spot but as a freshman he probably lacks the strength to handle more mature players.  Jeremy Jacob is reported to be a solid player with a nice mid-range jumper, something the Ducks lacked.  His age and maturity may also be a benefit to him.  At small forward the two established guys are sophomore south-paw Matt Humphrey and junior Lekendric Longmire.  Jamil Wilson could also challenge for time here, as he is rumored to be an athletic slasher.  Humphrey and Longmire are passionate guys and good athletes.  Humphrey is the better shooter and more skilled of the two, but Lekendric seems to make big plays.  Humphrey got more and more minutes near the end of last year and I expect the trend to continue with maturity.  Lekendric could be a very nice energy guy off the bench.  In any event, Ernie should have plenty of options with the interchangeability of the 2-4 positions.

In all reality the Ducks should have plenty of opportunities to do well in the conference, but are they mature enough?  It’s been a tumultuous off-season for the conference, with top teams losing a lot of talent and interesting coaching changes.  Other than Washington and Cal the conference is relatively unproven.  I expect the Ducks to finish in the middle of the Pac(k), but could even see them finishing as high 3rd or as low as 9th.  Since that isn’t much of a prediction, I’ll go on record saying they’ll finish 5th.

All-around the Oregon team should be much improved, because really, how hard is it to be better than they were?  Although Ernie doesn’t have a great track-record of late with developing inside big-men, I believe Dunigan is gifted enough to pave his own way.  Look for both his scoring average to jump up into double-digits and rebound numbers to improve as well.  (If he stays on the floor.)    The Ducks must also find consistency handling the ball, turnovers were a problem last season.  The best sign for the future though was the fact that the Ducks never quit on their season… At times they were certainly frustrated, and it showed, but other than a small incident involving Tajuan Porter there was never a lack of effort.  That effort finally paid off in the end of the conference season with back-to-back wins against Stanford and Oregon State.

Possible Red-Shirts:

1)    E.J. Singler
2)    Teondre Williams
3)    Drew Wiley?

Predicted Starters (really wide open…):

1)    Garret Sim
2)    Tajuan Porter
3)    Matt Humphrey/Jamil Wilson
4)    Jeremy Jacob/Joevan Catron
5)    Mike Dunigan


Pac10 Preview – Overview

Alright, I figured it’s time to get this project underway.  The idea of doing in-depth analysis of every club in the Pac 10 conference scared me, so I decided to break it apart.  Today we’ll look at the conference in general and begin the team previews with the  Oregon Ducks.  Choosing to look at the Ducks first may seem a bit arbitrary but it’s the club I know best and thus it will be the easiest to do.  (Which is nice because I’m a busy man.)pac10

Pac 10 clubs lost a lot of talent, NBA caliber talent.  Both Arizona schools have to replace the bulk of their scoring after the departures of Harden and Pendergraph at ASU, along with Budinger and Hill at Arizona.  Besides Taj Gibson and Demar DeRozan leaving the club, SC lost Coach Tim Floyd to resignation in a veritable debacle.  At UCLA, Coach Howland will be without the experience of Aboya, Collinson, and Josh Shipp.  Washington and WSU also lost considerably, especially at WSU where the Tony Bennett exit will be exacerbated by a youthful squad.  So what’s the result of all the commotion?  As you would expect, a watered down conference.  But conference play should be competitive and open.

So who’s going to win the conference?  The top two positions are clear and relatively interchangeable in my mind.

1.  Cal

2. Washington

After that things get a bit hairy.

3. Arizona


5. Oregon

6. Oregon State

7. ASU

8. Stanford

9. USC

10. Washington State