In the midst of an unprecedented run at its first National Championship in the program’s 117-year history, it’s safe to say the Oregon football team is on Cloud 9. The men’s basketball team, on the other hand, is trying to get out from under a black cloud.
Four years removed from its second Elite Eight appearance this decade, a program that was once on the rise nationally is now attempting to rebuild itself. After a tumultuous offseason following yet another subpar campaign, the Ducks enter the 2010-11 season with a new coach, a new arena, and what appears like an entirely new roster.
The Ducks open the season tonight against North Dakota State at Mac Court. For those of you who haven’t been paying as much attention to the latest greatest in Oregon hoops, we’ve put together an ATQ all-in-one guide to the 2010-11 Oregon men’s basketball team. Without further ado...
A New Coach
It didn’t happen exactly the way it was supposed to, but after failing to haul in a big-name coach like Gonzaga’s Mark Few or Michigan State’s Tom Izzo to take over the program, former Oregon athletic director Pat Kilkenny eventually lured long-time Creighton head coach Dana Altman away from his home state of Nebraska to take over for Ernie Kent, who was let go this spring after 13 seasons at the Ducks’ helm. In 16 years in Omaha, Altman turned Creighton into one of the top mid-major programs in the country, posting 11 straight 20-win seasons between 1998 and 2009, including 7 NCAA Tournament appearances.
Altman isn’t known for any particular system or coaching philosophy. What he’s known for is winning games, and in turn filling seats. The Blue Jays ranked in the top 30 nationally in attendance the past 7 seasons, including No. 15 last year. For a team on the verge of unveiling a brand new 12,500-seat facility, Altman might be the right man for the job. But he’s going to have to win games, and that’s no small feat with the roster’s current state.
Turnover (The Personnel Kind)
After losing only one senior, Tajuan Porter, following last year’s 16-16 finish, the Ducks seemed poised to take a step forward bolstered by a talented to-be-junior class. But shortly after Kent was let go, the mass exodus began. First, local boy Drew Wiley defected. Then Matthew Humphrey and Josh Crittle.
After Altman was hired in April, it seemed the bleeding had stopped. But instead, it turned into a hemorrhage. Next, highly touted true freshman Jamil Wilson exited, followed by the controversial departure of center Michael Dunigan, whose signing with an Israeli professional team brought the program under fire. And just when the Ducks began to pick up the pieces, LeKendric Longmire, who had struggled academically since arriving at Oregon, decided not enroll.
But it wasn’t all bad news. In June, Joevan Catron was granted a medical hardship after missing the 2009-10 season. And Malcolm Armstead, who was rumored to be joining the departure trend, chose to remain in Eugene.
But if you don’t recognize half the names on Oregon’s roster this season, at least now you know you’re not the only one.
Oregon clearly needs some time to get things back on track. The Ducks were picked to finish last in the Pac-10 preseason media poll, and given how undersized they are (there are only three players on the roster over 6’6"), I’d be surprised if they didn’t. But the recent announcement of a top-25 recruiting class has given the struggling program hope.
In a season of transition, the most important step for this program is to show progress. Eight conference wins (one more than the 7 they notched last year), might be asking a lot of this team, but a 10-win conference season isn’t entirely out of the question. Just don’t expect much, at least not until the second half of the Pac-10 slate.
But hey, at least we still have football, right?
Key Returning Players
- Malcolm Armstead: The junior point guard broke the school record last year for steals in a season (65), and led the team in assists (4.3 apg), minutes (31.7 mpg), and was second in scoring (10.2 ppg).
- Joevan Catron: The senior forward missed nearly all of last season due to injury. Will be counted on for scoring and rebounding, and if he can stay healthy, should post big numbers as Oregon’s go-to scoring option.
- Jeremy Jacob: The redshirt junior forward led the team in total rebounds (153), and was fourth on the team in scoring (7.5 ppg), filling the void left by the injured Catron last season. Will miss the first month after undergoing knee surgery in October.
- E.J. Singler: The sophomore forward’s game has an uncanny resemblance to that of former Oregon do-it-all forward A.D. Smith. Ranked third or fourth on the team in five different categories, and is poised to take a big step forward in Altman’s high-post offense.
- Jay-R Strowbridge: The senior transfer from Jacksonville State will add much-needed 3-point shooting on a team that was abysmal last year when excluding Porter’s numbers.
- Tyrone Nared: The 6'8" junior-college transfer should help the Ducks immediately on the glass. Also shoots a high percentage from the field. Will contribute immediately, especially with Jacob out until December.
- Johnathan Loyd: The true freshman was Nevada’s Class 4A State Player of the Year last season. Could be a solid backup for Armstead at the point.
Other newcomers: Matt Losli, Nicholas Lucenti, Martin Seiferth
Nov. 12: Opening Night vs. North Dakota State (Mac Court)
Nov. 27: vs. Duke (Rose Garden in Portland)
Dec. 2: Big-12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series vs. Missouri (Mac Court)
Dec. 30: Pac-10 Opener vs. Arizona (Mac Court)
Jan. 13: Matthew Knight Arena Opens vs. USC
Mar. 9-12: Pac-10 Tournament (Staples Center in LA)