Countdown to College Basketball: #16 Oregon Ducks

I’m not going to be friendly about last seasons Oregon team, while they technically won the Pac-12 regular-season title (despite this being affected positively by Covid pauses), and made the Sweet 16 despite only playing one game to get there, I will maintain my stance that Oregon was not deserving of full credit for their success from a season ago. That said, I am buying into this year’s Oregon team as they have added a good collection of transfers to fill out what should be a solid rotation. While UCLA is and rightfully so should be the preseason favorite in the Pac-12, this could be the team that ends up winning the Conference Championship, while they should be a Final Four threat as well. 

Will Richardson returns as the experienced guard in the Dana Altman program, while there is an abundance of options to be the lead guard, Richardson has the most experience in that spot. Richardson is a 6’5 guard who is a good passer and lead guard, while he’s one of the consistently great three-point shooters in the sport. Look for him to try to take more of an impact scoring-wise this season, while he could try to play more minutes off the ball than he did a season ago.

Joining Richardson in the backcourt are transfer guards De’Vion Harmon (Oklahoma) and Jacob Young (Rutgers). Harmon moved off the ball last season and excelled in that role, Harmon is a 6’2 guard that is a decent shooter but excels as a driver to the rim, while he makes his way being a tough bulldog type of player. Look for Harmon to continue to excel playing off the ball, while him attacking the rim will be a source of high-efficiency offense. Jacob Young to a greater extent is a bulldog, he’s a tough, physical guard, who is going to get some run at the point guard position alongside Richardson. Young is a good passer, who excels driving to the rim, and he’s a low turnover guard, while defensively he’s willing to pick up from 94 feet and guard the opponent’s lead guard. 

Quincy Guerrier will step in and be a good overall glue piece and help out as a scorer as well, as he’s a perfect modern-day four-man. Guerrier is a good but not elite shooter but excels at scoring around the basket, while he’s a good defender and rebounder. Eric Williams Jr moves back into the role as the sixth-man, although there will be minutes where he does play in a small-ball five role. Williams is a decent shooter but excels being a good defender, rebounder, and physical piece, who can defend against stronger players. 

Up front, the Ducks have an abundance of pieces to fill the role of starting center, however, none of these options are great. N’Faly Dante projects to be the starter, he’s a shot-blocking center, who’s a good finisher around the rim, and excels at rebounding. Frank Kepnang showed potential last season, although as with any player who enrolls mid-season, Kepnang had his struggles. Give him a full offseason to develop as a player, and he should start to show strides coming into this season. Nathan Bittle is a 6’11 freshman who is a long and athletic forward, who does have some ball-handling capabilities, which is interesting. The Ducks could also look to see some shooting and length from forward Isaac Johnson, a former four-star prospect who went on a mission prior to this season.  

Overall this Oregon team has a lot to like with maybe one of the top backcourts in College Basketball, with Young, Richardson, and Harmon, who each will play a significant part on this roster. While Richardson was good a season ago running the offense, Jacob Young should take care of the lead guard responsibilities in order for this team to have their most success. Young’s ability to get downhill, create open shots for this collection of shooters, and play high-level defense will be key. Harmon and Guerrier not being super-elite shooters might be some cause for concern, but both have the ability to create offense for themselves and will exceed back cutting and attacking the rim. Add in Will Richardson, an elite three-point shooter who will once again shoot over 40 percent from three, and that is a really good backcourt to build upon. 

The cause for concern is the frontcourt, in the worst-case scenario Eric Williams Jr showed he could be a good rebounder and interior defender, although at 6’6 he could get overmatched by larger teams. Dante has shown the ability to be a good piece, although they need him to be healthy, he’s a good option at the 5. Add in some mystery-box pieces and there’s a good enough combination to work with at the center position. The Ducks should be in a good position to repeat as Pac-12 Champions going into this season, while a return to the Final Four for the first time since 2017 is most certainly a realistic possibility. 

Projected Rotation 

PG: Jacob Young

SG: Will Richardson

SF: De’Vion Harmon 

PF: Quincy Guerrier

C: N’Faly Dante

B1: Eric Williams Jr

B2: Nathan Bittle

B3: Isaac Johnson

B4: Frank Kepnang

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