Dana Altman, entering his fourth year at the helm of the Oregon Ducks, has certainly turned the program around. He is 73-37 in those three seasons, and has recorded three straight 20-plus win campaigns to go along with three straight postseason births, reaching the 2013 NCAA Sweet 16 after winning the Pac-12 Tournament, a year in which they went 28-9 overall.
Can the Ducks continue their impressive run of success? I will argue that they absolutely will.
The Ducks lost three main starters after last season, including forward and rebounding machine Arsalan Kazemi, who was drafted 54th overall in the NBA Draft to the San Antonio Spurs. Joining him is the versatile E.J. Singler, who put up 11.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game last season, and 6-foot-11 center Tony Woods, who was a presence on the interior.
They do return two starters who started right out of the gate their freshman seasons in guard Dominic Artis and guard Damyean Dotson. The 6-foot-5 Dotson was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshmen Team in 2012-13, putting up 11.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.
Another key returning letterman is senior point guard Jonathan Loyd. At 5-foot-8, he was named the 2013 Pac-12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player for his strong efforts and production in the conference postseason. The other returning lettermen, senior center Waverly Austin, sophomore forward Ben Carter, sophomore forward Elgin Cook and senior Nicholas Lucenti, combined for just 7.2 points per game last season.
There are two major additions to this year’s squad. The first of which is guard Joseph Young. Young is a redshirt junior who transferred from the Houston Cougars. In Houston as a sophomore, he averaged 14.8 points and 3.5 rebounds a game, hitting 40.2 percent of his 3-point shots. He will play big minutes on this year’s squad, and most likely earn an Pac-12 All-Team selection come season’s end.
The second major addition via transfer is guard Jason Calliste. A 1,000-point scorer in three seasons at Detroit, he averaged 11.1 points per game in his career for the Titans. As a junior, he put up 14.4 points and hit 73 3-pointers to go with 3.3 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals per contest. He will also get a lot of minutes and add some veteran leadership that this young team needs.
Former NBA top prospect Mike Moser has to sit out this season after transferring to the Ducks following the 2012-2013 campaign at UNLV.
By all indication, the starting lineup will be Cook, Austin, Young, Loyd and Calliste. Artis and Carter will all provide depth off the bench, and this team will play small all season. That’s a concern rebounding-wise, but if they can manage to shoot to their capability, I see the Ducks soaring to new heights.
Young and Calliste will be the two stars on this team. If Austin is able to establish himself in the post, look out. They will be tested right out of the gate on Friday, November 8, as they face Georgetown in South Korea in the Armed Forces Classic. Another test against Illinois on December 14 will challenge the Ducks, but I like this team getting to 14-1 before Pac-12 play.
I see them going 13-5 during conference play, leading to an overall record of 27-6 during the regular season. If the stars align, barring injury of course, this team can be in the Final Four in March in my eyes. The team will be without Artis and Carter to start the season following a suspension from the NCAA for selling team gear, but the talent in the starting five on this team can weather the storm until they return.