With 4 starters gone, Oregon is in transition
Oregon guard Payton Pritchard is just a sophomore but for now he’s charged with leading the Ducks following the departure of four starters.
Oregon is in transition with few returnees from last season’s Final Four team, joined by a handful of freshmen and two graduate transfers.
“We are expecting more from him in the ways of leadership, especially through November and December, until we get a lot of guys on the page with what we’re doing,” coach Dana Altman said about Pritchard . “I think he’s going to have a big role, a tremendous role of trying to get everybody on the same page.”
The Ducks set a school record for wins last season, finishing 33-6 and making just the second national semifinal appearance in school history. It was the team’s fifth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Oregon beat Iona, Rhode Island and No. 23 Michigan to reach the Elite Eight — where the team pulled off a thrilling 74-60 victory over the Jayhawks.
That sent the Ducks through to their first Final Four since 1939, when the Tall Firs won the first-ever NCAA Tournament with a final victory over Ohio State. The team was bumped from their bid for a spot in the national championship game by eventual champion North Carolina.
Oregon also won a share of the Pac-12 regular-season title and went undefeated at home for the second straight season.
Pritchard averaged 7.4 points per game last season, along with 3.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists.
“I think eventually they’ll blend together and be a pretty good team,” Altman said. “But they’re going to have to work awfully hard and give up some of the things they think are important, to do some of the things that are important for the team.”
KEY DEPARTURES: Dillon Brooks, who averaged just over 16 points last season for the Ducks, was a second-round pick by the Memphis Grizzlies. Jordan Bell also went in the second round and was traded to the Golden State Warriors. Tyler Dorsey went to the Atlanta Hawks in the second round. Chris Boucher went undrafted but signed a two-way contract with Golden State.
“None of them were projected out of high school to develop like that. But they all worked awfully hard. Because of that, I think they should all feel really good about where they’re at right now. Because it’s taken us to 90 wins in three years like they did, an Elite Eight and a Final Four. It was a great group of guys,” Altman said.
ADDITIONS: The Ducks added graduate transfers in Elijah Brown, a guard who averaged 18.9 points last season at New Mexico, and forward MiKyle McIntosh, who averaged 12.5 points and 5.6 rebounds last year at Illinois State. There’s also forward Paul White, who transferred from Georgetown and redshirted last year. Freshmen include forwards Troy Brown Jr., Kenny Wooten and Abu Kigab, and guards Victor Baily Jr., and late addition Will Johnson. Elijah Brown is the son of Golden State Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown.
K80 BOUND: The Ducks are among 16 teams that will play in the PK80 tournament over Thanksgiving weekend. The tournament honors Nike co-founder Phil Knight in advance of his 80th birthday. The field includes five teams that were in the final AP Top 25 from last season, including NCAA champion North Carolina. The Ducks, whose home court Matthew Knight Arena is named after Phil Knight’s late son, opens with UConn on Thanksgiving Day.
TROY BROWN: The versatile 6-foot-7 freshman out of Las Vegas was a five-star recruit, and considered among the top 20 players in the country by the major recruiting sites. He chose the Ducks over Kansas, Alabama, Georgetown and Ohio State. He was among the players on the 2016 USA Basketball men’s under-17 world championship team.
OUTLOOK: With the considerable turnover on the roster, the Ducks were picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12 in the preseason media poll. Altman said Arizona is the team to beat. He also offered something of a scouting report for the rest of the league at the conference basketball media day in San Francisco.
“Arizona, USC, both returned a lot of players. UCLA has a great blend of returning players and new guys. Stanford, with all the players they have returning. And Oregon State, they’ve got four really good scorers and guys that started for them last year, maybe they’ll be coming off the bench this year. So to think they could be a surprise team,” Altman said.
“Colorado and Utah are always competitive. And Arizona State, their guards, a dangerous team,” he added. “And we have three teams that are major transition with Washington, Cal, and Washington State with personnel that they lost. So those three teams are kind of mystery teams.”
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