UO men expect to contend in Pac-12
The last time we saw the Oregon Ducks play basketball, Payton Pritchard was leading them to a win over Arizona State and celebrating a Pac-12 championship and four years of excellence in an almost full Matthew Knight Arena.
When the Ducks take the floor — if they take the floor — Wednesday, Nov. 25, against Eastern Washington, the ambience inside Matthew Knight Arena will be much different. So will the Ducks, who were picked to finish third behind UCLA and Arizona State in the Pac-12 media poll.
Oregon State was picked last, but Ethan Thomson said that will motivate the Beavers, and coach Wayne Tinkle guarantees his team won't be at the bottom of the conference.
Ahead of a most unpredictable season, here is a peek at the Ducks and Beavers:
Key departures — Payton Pritchard, Shakur Juiston, Anthony Mathis, C.J. Walker, Addison Patterson, Francis Okoro.
Key returnees — Chris Duarte, Will Richardson, Chandler Lawson, N'Faly Dante.
Key additions — Sophomore forward Lok Wur and redshirt senior forward Eugene Omoruyi sat out last season after transferring. As of last week, the Ducks were still awaiting word from the NCAA on whether two perimeter senior transfers — LJ Figuroa and Amauri Hardi — can play this season. Dana Altman compares freshman guard Jalen Terry's quickness to Johnny Loyd.
One (nonpandemic) question — How much impact will Dante have? The highly touted 6-11 center is still growing, which explains knee discomfort he has dealt with. Altman said recently N'Faly had two impressive weeks of practice.
Reason to believe — Dana Altman's teams almost always improve dramatically during the season and the coach is used to heavy roster turnover. Duarte and Richardson are preseason first-team picks in the Pac-12. The coach likes the depth of his 11th Oregon team, which he said might be the single biggest factor for teams in this unusual season.
Schedule notes — The Nov. 25 Eastern Washington game was the only nonconference game officially scheduled through last week, though the Ducks plan to travel to Uncasville, Connecticut, to play games Dec. 2 and 3, with Missouri being one opponent. Oregon's first Pac-12 game is Dec. 12 at Washington.
Key departures — Tres Tinkle, Kylor Kelley.
Key returnees — Ethan Thompson, Zach Reichle, Alfred Collins.
Key additions — Junior forward Maurice Calloo, junior forward Warith Alatishe, junior guard Tariq Silver, junior forward Rodrigue Andela.
One (non-pandemic) question — Who will replace Tres Tinkle's scoring? Tinkle, who signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Lakers, is the OSU career scoring leader and averaged more than 18 points a game last season.
Reason to believe — Despite the graduation of shot blocking machine Kylor Kelley, coach Wayne Tinkle believes this team can be better defensively across the board and can turn that defense into offense. Ethan Thompson, a second-team pick on the Pac-12 preseason team, worked on his strength and is motivated to have a big senior season on both ends of the court.
Schedule notes — Oregon State will play five nonconference home games, beginning Wednesday, Nov. 25, against Northwest University and Thursday against Colorado State. The Pac-12 opener is Dec. 2 at Washington State. Nonconference games are planned against Wyoming (Dec. 6), Portland (Dec. 10) and UTSA (Dec. 16).
Last season was a resurgent one for the conference, which was projected to get seven teams into the NCAA Tournament. That might be a stretch this season, but the conference has a lot of new talent, including a slew of transfers. UCLA, picked by the media to win the conference, returns its top five scorers … Arizona State's Remy Martin might be the best scorer in the conference entering his fourth season. It will be interesting to see if former Portland State guard Holland Woods has an impact at ASU. He certainly won't have the ball in his hands like he did for the Vikings.
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