BY GEORGE ARTSITAS — You know what time of year it is.
It’s the time of year when you have to be reminded that the basketball season is back.
It’s not hard to miss it. It comes up at the worst timing possible for Ducks’ fans. Football is in full swing, school is entering that weird midterm/final exam haze that is hard to differentiate and, oh yeah, I’ll say it again: Football is in full swing. It’s hard to divert someone’s attention from a 10-0 team on the precipice of their three biggest games of the year and a National Title berth with some less-than-competitive non-conference games in basketball. Even still, it’s our job to entice you into finding a little room for excitement for what should be a pretty fun year of Pac-12 basketball.
Here’s a couple of things you need to know coming into this year’s men’s season;
1. The Ducks aren’t very good (yet).
Hate to be blunt, but it’s kind of just the truth. If you’re riding a high of being the best team in the national from football, it’s time to cool your jets coming into basketball season. This isn’t like football, and the basketball wing of
Nike the Oregon Athletic Department hasn’t quite found the best way to lure big time athletes up to Eugene.
Matt Knight Arena’s novelty court with forests around looks more like an ode to the Twilight franchise and Forks, Washington than something a 17-year-old kid would want to play on. Just ask Jabari Brown, Dana Altman’s jewel recruit who left Oregon to play over in Missouri.
They bring back Seniors E.J. Singler and Carlos Emory, who should carry a majority of the load, but not too much can be expected. It’s a young team that is definitely working towards the future. But…
2. There is reason for optimism
They’ve notched two wins at home to start the year against Northern Arizona and Portland State, which means they beat two teams they were never supposed to lose to, but we’ll take it over the alternative. And they’re only slated to play three ranked teams this year as of the preseason poll. On top of that, eight of nine and 10 of 12 start the year at Matt Knight Arena, which should get them off to a rosy start.
Looking further than this year, there is some promise on the horizon. They seem to be allocating some quality minutes to freshman guard Dominic Artis who has shown signs of potential. Also, fellow freshmen Damyean Dotson, (no relation to Antoine) is rounding into form. Take those two freshmen and add the Robinson twins who are due in Eugene as freshmen next year, and the Ducks have something to be happy about in the very near future.
3. The Pac-12 is bad
Like historically bad. Last year was the only time a major conference season champion didn’t make the tournament when Washington didn’t get an at-large bid. Last year, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA, Washington and Cal went a combined 0-22 against top 60 RPI out of conference. That’s awful. At least it’d be very hard to be worse than that. No matter what, this is a rebound season. Also, to start the season the Pac-12 is a combined 15-0. Granted the wins came against teams like the South Harmon Institute of Technology and PCU, but there’s no reason to not enjoy the moment.
4. There’s a couple of big guns in the conference
Arizona and UCLA are the prohibitive big dogs in the Pac-12, ranked 12th and 13th respectively. The Bruins, who came into this year as a potential dark horse Final Four pick, will be without their top-3 recruit Shabazz Muhommad for the foreseeable future due to NCAA eligibility issues. But all is not lost in Westwood: Fellow Bruin Kyle Andersen could also be good, projected by ESPN’s Chad Ford as a top-20 pick. Also, the Bruins’ Joshua Smith could go high as a big man if he could possibly get his conditioning in check. But truthfully, if you have a chance at millions in the NBA or a chance at a daily Double-Double from In-N-Out Burger, you take the latter right?
Outside of the Bruin and Wildcats, there’s a couple of players who will probably be playing on the next level next year. Colorado’s Andre Robertson and Washington’s CJ Wilcox have both been pegged as mid-to-late first round picks from NBADraft.net and should be tough whenever they face the Ducks. It’s a conference not short of star power. Unfortunately, the Ducks have none of that power or stars as of yet.
5. It’s time to see how Altman does
Dana Altman finished 13-5 and in third place in a very down Pac-12 last year in his second season as coach. Overall, he’s been a very solid 45-28 to start his run at Oregon, but having your biggest recruit just up and leave is very concerning. Even then, his job should be safe this season unless he loses 15 straight games or he has a Scotty McCreery situation, but it’ll be interesting to see how things change in his third year. Next year, with a solid recruiting class and his first batch of senior will be put up or shut up time. This year, all Ducks’ fans can hope for is their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2008.
Starting this season 2-0, the hope is still alive. There’s reason to cheer.