Title Odds: +1200
Odds c/o Bovada
The Oregon Ducks have been on the rise. This year there will be no surprises, as the Pac-12 powerhouse has risen to prominence and made that claim known well enough with a No. 1 seed last March. Now they are here as a definite top-10 team we must preview at Maddux Sports, and looking at the host of returning talent the Ducks have it will be no mystery why they are here.
Oregon’s No. 1 talent is an unconventional one: A 190-pound 6-foot-10 forward in Chris Boucher. NBA scouts are clamoring for Boucher to add some bulk, but his wiry frame has done nothing to hold him back in the collegiate game. He does not play like a big man, but perhaps that would go without saying. He hit 39 triples last season while also blocking 110 shots, which put him in exclusive company: No Pac-12 player has ever hit 35-plus threes and blocked over 100 shots.
Oregon, of course, also has traditional post players to make up for his unorthodoxy: Jordan Bell shot 57.6 percent from the floor while averaging seven points and five boards per game as a sophomore. He is also a rim protector, like Boucher. Oregon’s defense will be strong in the paint, and teams will hesitate to take it to the rack against the Ducks.
Oh, more shot blocking? Got that covered: JUCO transfer Kavell Bigby-Williams is another shot-rejector who averaged over five per contest last season in JUCO ball. Oregon does protect the rim, but it will need to hit the glass harder as the Ducks were outrebounded in five of it seven losses last season.
Adding legendary rebounder Michael Cage’s son, M.J., seems a natural fix to this issue. Roman Sorkin also could factor in more as a junior who saw just five minutes per game last season, but is 6’10” with a high motor and appetite for the glass. The Ducks can remedy its biggest issue from a great 2015-16 season and come out even stronger. The Pac-12 trembles, but will the powerhouses nation-wide?
The backcourt should help that goal. Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks both decided to forgo the NBA and Oregon is all the stronger due to it. Dorsey and Brooks combined for 30.1 points per game last season and Brooks settled his temper to emerge as a great leader. He led the team in scoring and assists, and if the Ducks need buckets, he can certainly pour them in. Dorsey meanwhile shot 40.6 percent from three-point range as a freshman, and he can also get to the basket. He will need to work on his handle some, but both have the talent to play some role at the next level.
Casey Benson led the country in A/TO ratio last season, and his experience, composure and leadership should be good enough to get this team deep into March. Dylan Ennis will return after getting a waiver from the NCAA to play, and he is arguably Oregon’s most talented player. Payton Prichard will also be in the mix at the point.
As to who starts, that is somewhat unclear, but it is hard to imagine Ennis sits much, while Benson’s work last season guarantees him a chunk of minutes. That could leave Prichard, an in-state legend, to wait a season or two before he gains the reigns of the program.
This program has been on the rise. Look at the last five years: NIT, Sweet 16 NCAA, Round of 32, Round of 32—and then last year’s Elite 8 appearance. Will this be the year they crack the Final Four? Win it all? It won’t be due to lack of talent if not.