Can we just get the college basketball season started already? With the NBA starting last week, the tip off for college hoops is oh’ so close. #14 Oregon, according to the AP preseason poll, starts the season with an exhibition matchup against Western Oregon on Nov. 1 but the season officially kicks off as Portland State travels to Matthew Knight Arena on Nov. 6. Let’s get you prepared for the first game by checking out the possible starting five, rotation players and bench for the Ducks.
Payton Pritchard, Junior - One of the most underrated point guards in the nation. Payton is the only player on the roster that played on the 2016-2017 Final Four team and he will be leading the offense for the Ducks once again. Pritchard led the team in scoring last year with 14.5 PPG but let’s hope the newcomers take some of the offensive scoring load off of him. Payton will need to use his experience to lead this relatively young team to a PAC-12 Championship.
Will Richardson, Freshman - This second position in the backcourt is up in the air (with Victor Bailey Jr. and Ehab Amin) but I’m going with the highly recruited high school player grabbing the starting spot (once he comes back from his foot injury). Richardson, the 39th ranked player in the ESPN100, will hopefully be making a strong impact as a freshman through his ability to attack the rim. The young kid is a deep-threat leftie as well. Richardson can basically score from anywhere on the floor.
Paul White, RS Senior - Paul is the oldest player in the starting five who will have a bigger role than he did last season. White averaged 9.4 PPG and 3.5 RPG last season in 23.4 MPG. He should balance out the inexperienced frontcourt with Louis King and Bol Bol as Paul is more familiar with Dana Altman’s system.
Louis King, Freshman - The 11th ranked player in the ESPN100 is scary athletic and will jump in the starting lineup once he recovers from his torn meniscus injury. He can stretch the floor at 6’9 and take it coast-to-coast with ease. He will be very exciting to watch this season and is a great replacement for Troy Brown Jr. (Washington Wizards rookie). Louis and Bol Bol down low will be a nightmare for PAC-12 opponents. Look for Wooten to start in place of King due to his injury.
Bol Bol, Freshmen - The 7’3 human cheat code. I have never seen a player at his size shoot the ball so smoothly and handle the ball with such confidence. The son of the late Manute Bol should be a lot better than his father and is one of the frontrunners for PAC-12 Player of the Year. Did I mention the seven-footer can stretch to the three-point line? The only problem with Bol Bol is his motor as he does seem to slack off at times.
Victor Bailey Jr., Sophomore - Oregon is returning most of their rotation players from last season and will have a strong depth to their roster. This will be key down the stretch as the freshman adjust to the college basketball style of play. Bailey Jr. was one of two Duck freshman last season to play in every game (along with Wooten).
Kenny Wooten, Sophomore - It’s just hard to get up any shots against this high-flyer. Wooten had 92 blocks in 36 games last season and will be a defensive threat. We will see Wooten get a good amount of starts this season, especially if he shoots the ball as well as he did last year (.681% from the field). Wooten, along with King and Bol, have a lot of NBA potential.
Ehab Amin, RS Senior - The transfer from Texas A&M Corpus Christi (Southland Conference) loves to get in the passing lanes. Amin led the nation in steals with 3.4 per game in the 2016-2017 season. He can score the ball too as he averaged 16.9 PPG in his junior campaign along with 6.6 RPG. Amin is ready for the next step into Power 5 Conference basketball and has a great chance to make a huge impact on this squad. Look for Amin to jump in the starting spot as Richardson works his way back from injury.
Abu Kigab, Sophomore - Abu, a 6’7 forward, can be thrown into the mix when Altman needs him in the game to slow down a player on the offensive end. He is one the best defensive players on the team, alongside Wooten, and will see time on the court.
Miles Norris, Freshman - Miles is the 78th ranked player in the ESPN100. Norris is a 6’10 power forward who has skilled footwork in the post and can step out to hit the jumper. He will need to make an impact on the offensive end for the second string. Miles will benefit from watching/learning from the players ahead of him as he still is a bit raw but he definitely has a bright future with this Oregon program.
Rest of the Bench:
Will Johnson, RS Freshmen - Johnson sat out last season and will play his first full season with the Ducks. Unfortunately, the guard position is pretty full ahead of him with Pritchard, Richardson, Bailey Jr., and Amin. We will see him on the court in the beginning of the season as Richardson works his way back into the lineup. The smooth leftie has basketball running in his veins as his father, Kris Johnson, was a member of the 1995 UCLA National Championship team and his grandfather, Marques Johnson, was a member of the 1975 UCLA National Championship team. Marques was also a 5-time NBA all-star and the 1985-1986 NBA Comeback Player of the Year.
Francis Okoro, Freshman - Francis was the 34th ranked player in the ESPN60 for the class of 2019 before he reclassified to the class of 2018. Okoro is a big body down low but with all the depth in the frontcourt ahead of him and being even younger than a normal freshman, his time will be limited.
Luke Osborn, RS Sophomore - Luke sat out last season due to a redshirt and was a member of the practice squad. Osborn will be helping out the starters in practice by emulating an opponent’s style of play, similar to a scout team in football.
I expect the starting lineup to be changed numerous times throughout the season as Altman tries to figure out what best clicks for this Oregon squad. Injury is already a factor so adjustments are being made early. With Dana Altman’s best recruiting class in his tenure at Oregon, the expectations are high for the PAC-12 preseason favorite Ducks. Mark your calendar, 6 days until the official start to the 2018-2019 Oregon basketball season.
*Arden Cravalho is a senior at Gonzaga University... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho