The Oregon Ducks have one of the deepest rosters in college basketball but will have to find a good balance between experienced players and freshmen.
Dana Altman has had some great Oregon Ducks teams, but this one may have an outside chance for a Final Four run. Although the Ducks don’t have a true go-to option, they have multiple shot creators and one of the best big men in the Pac-12, in N’Faly Dante.
Despite being made up of mostly seniors and graduate seniors, there are three top-30 recruits on this team. That will pose Altman with tough decisions, given how talented Kwame Evans Jr., Jackson Shelstad, and Mookie Cook are. On day one, I expect Evans to be a starter, given Oregon’s need for a true power forward. However, don’t be surprised if Shelstand and Cook crack the starting lineup, if they live up to the hype.
Of course, pleasing the team will be important too. Keeshawn Barthelemy, Jermaine Couisnard, and Kario Oquendo are all polished players who might not want to lose their starting roles to freshmen. If any positive can come from this, it’s that the level of competition in practice in Eugene, Oregon may be the best of anywhere in the country.
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Head coach: Dana Altman (35th season, 14th at Oregon)
2022-23 record: 21-15 (12-8)
2023 postseason finish: Lost to Wisconsin, 61-58, in NIT quarterfinals
Notable departures: Will Richardson (Pro), Quincy Guerrier (Transferred to Illinois), Rivaldo Soares (Transferred to Oklahoma), Kel’el Ware (Transferred to Indiana), Lok Wur (Transferred to Grand Canyon)
Notable non-conference games: vs. Georgia (Nov. 6), vs. Michigan (Dec. 2), vs. Syracuse (Dec. 17)
PG: Keeshawn Barthelemy (6-2, 175, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 9.3 PPG, 2.4 APG, 2.0 RPG, 35.8 3P%
SG: Jermaine Couisnard (6-4, 210, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 12.8 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.2 APG
SF: Kario Oquendo (6-4, 210, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 12.7 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 0.6 APG (Georgia)
PF: Kwame Evans Jr. (6-9, 200, Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 15 rated recruit
C: N’Faly Dante (6-11, 230, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 13.4 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.4 BPG, 1.1 SPG, 61.4 FG%
6: Jackson Shelstad (6-0, 170, Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 24 rated recruit
7: Nate Bittle (7-0, 215, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 7.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.2 BPG
8: Jesse Zarzuela (6-3, 170, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 16.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.7 APG, 35.6 3P% (Central Michigan)
9: Mookie Cook (6-7, 200, Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 30 rated recruit
10: Brennan Rigsby (6-3, 180, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 4.2 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.8 APG
11: Mahamadou Diawara (6-10, 250, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 4.1 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 0.3 APG, 53.9 FG%
12: Jadrian Tracey (6-5, 190, Rs.-Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 14.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.9 APG, 43.3 3P% (Florida Southwestern State – NJCAA)
Oregon Ducks MVP: N’Faly Dante
Although not necessarily the top option on an Oregon Ducks team with multiple “first options,” Dante does require extra attention defensively.
Dante plays around the basket but is a very mobile big man who isn’t immune to handling the basketball. He moves about as quickly as any big man in college basketball, which makes him a matchup nightmare for slower centers.
With so many shot creators on this Ducks team, Dante can get open easier than other big men who draw more attention. It’s nearly impossible to key in and double-team Dante because his supporting cast is just as good. It takes a good gameplan to stop Oregon from scoring, and it revolves mostly around Dante.
Oregon Ducks make-or-break player: Jackson Shelstad
How will the highly-rated point guard fit in on this team? Shelstad could be that one freshman who sneaks into the starting lineup and pushes a deserving senior to the bench.
When it gets down to it, neither Barthelemy nor Couisnard are true point guards. If Shelstad can run Altman’s offense better, and it can help the team be even more efficient on offense, it could be a change we see at some point during the season. At the very least, Shelstad has a chance to be one of the best bench point guards in the country and could lead a very competitive second unit.
Key analytic: SCC%
When the Oregon Ducks got second-chance opportunities last season, they usually cashed in.
The Ducks ranked 6th in the country in SCC%, and you can thank having rebounders like Dante and Nate Bittle. Both of them are back, so getting second-chance opportunities will not be a thing of the past.
When teams play Oregon, they need to beat them on the glass. The Ducks averaged 11.0 offensive rebounds per game last year, which was nearly top 100 in the country. And of course, when they did get offensive boards, they didn’t let them go to waste.
Oregon Ducks 2023-24 projections
Projected conference finish: 5th in the Pac-12
Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Final Four Appearance