With the addition of three key transfers and highly-touted freshman Jabari Brown, the Oregon Ducks have been tabbed a Pac-12 sleeper this season. For that to happen, second-year head coach Dana Altman must get his players on the same page from the opening tip of the season.
Brown is a potentially program-changing player for Oregon as he was a consensus top-30 recruit. He can score in bunches and might be the favorite to win Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. With no true point guard in the starting lineup, Brown will likely share the ball-handling duties with returning starter Garrett Sim which might be a concern.
Johnathan Lloyd will provide the Ducks with a stable floor leader off the bench. He was a solid contributor as a freshman, though he really struggled shooting the ball. Three-point threat Brett Kingma should help in that area. He can light it up from deep and will certainly be a huge scoring threat off the bench. Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph becomes eligible after the first semester and will add even more depth at guard. The former Gopher has good size, quickness, vision as a passer, and can also score the rock when needed.
The frontcourt features a pair of transfers who should step right into the starting lineup. Former Wake Forest Demon Deacon Tony Woods had a disappointing start to his college career and some off-the-court issues, but is hoping for new life in Eugene. Olu Ashaolu entered the NBA Draft this offseason but withdrew his name and decided to transfer. He becomes eligible right away because he completed his undergrad at Louisiana Tech, but enrolled in grad school at Oregon. At 6-foot-7, he is a bit undersized but a very solid rebounder, defender, and range out to the three-point line.
Jeremy Jacob and Tyrone Nared bring terrific experience and depth to the frontcourt. Jacob battled through injury last season but both guys have seen extensive time in the starting lineup. Newcomers Chris Larson and Austin Kuemper don't figure to see much time on the floor.
E.J. Singler is the top returning scorer and three-point shooter. He showed improvement as a sophomore and must be a steadying force due to all the newcomers. JUCO transfer Carlos Emory is a combo forward who will bring strength and athleticism to the floor.
Altman has Oregon heading in the right direction. A ton of money has been put into the program to upgrade facilities in hopes of drawing interest from a higher level of talent. So far that investment has seemingly paid off, but the Ducks must prove that this season with an expected top-five Pac-12 finish and trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Player to Watch: E.J. Singler, SF
It would be easy to pick one of the newcomers but because of Singler's familiarity with Altman's system, I think he will be vital to the Ducks' success. Like his older brother Kyle, E.J. contributes in a variety of ways: scoring, rebounding, defending, and playing with a high level of basketball IQ. He can play multiple positions and will allow Altman to show different looks with this team.