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Pac-12 Basketball Team Preview: After A Trying Off-Season, Dana Altman Faces His Biggest Test Yet At Oregon

It’ll be a new look roster for the Ducks, who still expect to be contenders in the conference.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Oregon vs St. Joseph's James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Oregon Ducks

  • Last Season: 33-6 (16-2)
  • Head Coach: Dana Altman (8th Season)
  • Projected Media Poll Finish: 4th (203 Points)
  • Leading Returner In Scoring: Payton Pritchard (7.4 PPG)
  • Leading Returner In Rebounds: Payton Pritchard (3.4 PPG)
  • Leading Returner In Assists: Payton Pritchard (3.6 PPG)

The Skinny

If the Ducks’ two exhibition contests are any indication of just who Oregon will be this season, then it’s safe to say that the program hasn’t lost too much momentum from last year’s Final Four campaign. And yet, while a follow up with another deep March run seems unlikely for the boys from Eugene, there’s some serious belief building around the Pac-12 that the cupboard at Oregon may not be as bare as it was originally expected to be.

It sure was a tough off-season for Oregon head coach Dana Altman, who felt the immediate effects of being one of the country’s top teams in the country last season, when he lost five players in Dillon Brooks (Memphis Grizzlies), Tyler Dorsey (Atlanta Hawks), Chris Boucher (Golden State Warriors), Jordan Bell (Golden State Warriors) and Dylan Ennis (Serbia) to the professional ranks, as well as two more in Casey Benson (Grand Canyon) and Kavell Bigby-Williams (LSU) to the transfer market. Simply put, it’s a new list of faces up and down Oregon’s roster, who will still have the same expectations of a program that’s compiled a 64-13 overall record over the past two seasons.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Oregon vs North Carolina
Payton Pritchard is one of the Ducks’ lone returning contributors from last year’s Final Four run.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Where Altman was able to salvage a projected top-four team in the league after the massive off-season exodus, began on the transfer circuit, where the eighth-year head coach picked up three crucial talents in New Mexico’s Elijah Brown (18.8 PPG), Georgetown’s Paul White (1.6 PPG) and Illinois State’s Mikyle McIntosh (12.5 PPG). Brown and McIntosh are both more experienced pieces that will be able to step in and carry crucial scoring loads from day one, while White will more integrate with a mix-and-match front-court that is still to be ironed out. However, there’s no doubt about it, all three players will be heavily relied upon by the Ducks.

One of the lone returning contributors from last year’s squad is sophomore guard Payton Pritchard (7.4 PPG), who should find his niche again this season as one of the team’s more steady back-court pieces. Pritchard could also be given the role of team leader, to try to mesh not only a healthy number of transfers, but also a mix of talented freshmen who will be featured stand-outs for Oregon from the get-go. Included in that group of projected high-level performers is a trio of forwards in five-star recruit Troy Brown and the four-star combo of Kenny Wooten and Abu Kigab. Simply put, it’ll be a batch of fresh faces for the Ducks, who will need to develop chemistry as the season progresses.

Player To Know: Elijah Brown (SR)

A high-scoring guard (whose taken his fair share of criticism along the way), there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that New Mexico transfer guard Elijah Brown will be a prime-time scorer for the Ducks. The question now is will it be in a way that is a welcomed addition or a painful hindrance to the team’s overall level of success? The son of Golden State Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown, Elijah averaged a stunning 18.8 PPG last year for the Lobos, but along the way was surrounded by some issues pertaining to playing within the team concept. It’s one of those preconceived notions about the talented guard that he’ll be hoping to change when he steps on the court during the 2017-2018 campaign for the Ducks.

NCAA Basketball: New Mexico at Air Force
New Mexico transfer Elijah Brown is a prime-time scorer on the Ducks roster.
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Key Non-Conference Games

  • 11/23 v. UCONN* (PK80 Invitational)
  • 11/24 v. Depaul/Michigan State* (PK80 Invitational)
  • 12/16 at Fresno State