The outcome of UC Irvine’s second visit of the season was quite drastically different from their first back in November. This was much more of what fans expected to see the Ducks do to the Anteaters in the first place.
The interesting thing here was, Oregon was without three starters, but some encouraging performances were put on by a crop of returning players for next season. With Dana Altman bringing in one of, if not the, best recruiting classes in Oregon history, what will the mesh of players look like on next year’s roster?
Guards: Will Richardson’s long run with Oregon has finally ended, and Rivaldo Soares hasn’t yet stated if he will use his final year of eligibility. That being said, Oregon will be fairly loaded at the guard position. Keeshawn Barthelemy will likely battle it out with incoming West Linn product and Oregon High School Player of the Year Jackson Shelstad for the starting point guard position. At the two guard the Ducks will bring back Jermaine Cousinard, who has announced he will return, and likely Tyrone Williams. Cousinard has been hot and cold in 2023 and Williams, the leading JC scorer in the nation last year, hasn’t had a whole lot of playing time to showcase his skills, although he played very well in the NIT opener.
Position grade: A-
Forwards: This will be Oregon’s biggest question mark considering it will fall heavily on the shoulders of incoming 5-star duo Kwame Evans Jr. and Mookie Cook. The Ducks lose reliable forward Quincy Guerrier, who admittedly took a step back in 2023, and may see the return of Lok Wur, who has shown promise in the limited minutes he has received. This may well be a spot in which Altman adds some transfer talent, and it is probably the most uncertain of the positions.
Position grade: C+
Centers: The Ducks possessed a pair of bruisers at center recently in Franck Kepnong and N’Faly Dante, now it looks like they will be trotting out a slimmer set of towers for 2024, although not without great upside. Dante was undeniably Oregon’s best player in 2023, and has more than earned his spot in the NBA at this point. Returning to the Ducks to man the middle will be Nate Bittle and Kel’el Ware. Both five star recruits, Bittle was sparsely seen in 2022 but worked his way into some starts in 2023 and put on a show in the first NIT game. Ware has had some Freshman growing pains but still obviously has a load of skill that just needs to be refined. If these two can continue to grow and perhaps throw on a little weight, Oregon could be dangerous down low in 2024.
Position grade: B
Current outlook: next season is still a long way off, and the Ducks are focused on making a deep NIT run right now, but there is a large load of potential for 2024. This will be the first time Altman could potentially have three Freshman starters on the court in quite some time. For some reason, the past two Oregon teams have struggled mightily with consistency, even in February and March, which are traditionally Altman hot times. If the incoming squad buys in to Altman’s coaching style and doesn’t play so hot and cold, the Ducks should be right there competing for a conference championship and have their ticket to the dance secured.