Oregon returns this season looking to avenge a somewhat disappointing season, missing the tournament and having to settle for the NIT. Big man on campus, Payton Pritchard, looks to anchor the Ducks along with returning big man Kenny Wooten and wing Victor Bailey.
The reason why Duck Fans are so excited is their number four ranked freshmen class, who are talented all across the board. Bol Bol, who played for prestigious programs Mater Dei and Findlay Prep in his last two years of high school, is quite possibly the most intriguing physical specimen in all of college hoops and hasn’t played a single minute yet. Standing at 7’2” with a wing span of nearly 8 feet, he has the specifications of Ruby Gorbert and the athleticism of Giannis, as I have seen him dunk between the legs on a fast break in person at the 2017 Nike Extravaganza. Shot blocking machine that is literally a walking bucket, he can shoot from the perimeter and put the ball on the floor.
Will Richardson, floor general who spent his senior season at Oak Hill Academy looks to play significant minutes at the point guard and allow Pritchard to play the two guard, which is his preferred role. Miles Norris, originally from San Diego, played at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire his senior year, is a very bouncy and high flying acrobatic wing/forward who has a nice stroke to his game as well. Louis King is virtually another copy of Norris, the New Jersey product played both in the McDonalds All American Game and Jordan Brand Classic. This freshman group just oozes talent and is arguable just as dynamic at the fabulous four at Duke. The only thing that can stop the Ducks this year are themselves.
Players To Watch
Payton Pritchard - Mr. Oregon, just a kid from West Linn, averaged 14.5 points when Coach Altman gave him the keys to the offense last season. Pritchard looks to shift into the two guard spot, probably his more natural spot with the arrival of true point guards Will Richardson and graduate transfer Ehab Amin, who averaged 16.7 points per game, 6.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and a Division 1 leading 3.4 steals for Texas A&M Corpus Christi during the 2016-2017 season. Look for Pritchard to make deep three’s all season and drive in the lane with ease and smooth handles for an easy lay-in or assist, which he has been doing since collecting 6A State Player of the Year and 6A State Title Honors in high school.
Bol Bol - Bol committed to the Ducks citing that the Nike connection as a big reason (no surprise there), and is surely only staying the season before bringing his talents to the NBA. Bol Bol is the Duck’s Swiss Army Knife, providing an instant shot blocking presence like his father did decades ago, accessible offense in the form of ridiculous alley-oops or easy dunks, has a decent handle for a big man, and as shown from their exhibition game versus Western Oregon he can hit the occasional fade away three. Opponents will be frustrated all season figuring out how to stop this unicorn of a monstrosity.
Kenny Wooten - the big man played the five spot last season, a big undersized for the center position, but nonetheless averaged 6.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks. The athletic forward from California can now slide in his original position at the four and will be a forced to be reckoned with on the defense end with Bol. Will be called upon for easy buckets in the post and may be relied upon every so often to make open perimeter shots.
Three Key Non-Conference Games
12/1 vs. Houston - Houston had a breakthrough season, making the NCAA tournament for the first time since merging with the AAC, where they upset a cinderella San Diego State team. They return Corey Davis, Jr., who averaged 13 points as a junior shooting at a 43 percent clip from three-point land and speedster Galen Robinson who looks to pace them at the point guard spot with his perimeter and defensive play.
12/15 vs. Boise State - the Broncos finished second in a difficult Mountain West Conference behind a miraculous Nevada team at a respectable 23-9, but lost in the first round of the NIT to none other than Washington. The Broncos return sharpshooter Justinian Jessup, who averaged 11 points last season while shooting a remarkable 45 percent from three-point land. This marks the first of two games between Oregon and Boise State before conference play.
12/21 vs. Baylor - Bears finished 19-15 and 8-10 in a very competitive Big 12 Conference, earned the first seed. n the NIT Tournament, where they defeated Wagner but lost to Mississippi State in the second round. Baylor has an intriguing roster of transfers and should be an intriguing match-up for the Ducks right before Christmas.