Photo by Scott Boldt
Oregon Basketball

Season Preview: Oregon vs Fresno State

November 5, 2019

With all the excitement around football of late, the basketball season quietly snuck up on us. But Tuesday is finally the day as the defending Pac-12 Tourney champions, the Oregon Ducks, open their season against the Fresno State Bulldogs.

The game will tip off at 6 p.m. and will be available to on the Pac-12 Network.

Oregon opened the season ranked 15th, which is just perfect for a team loaded with newcomers. It puts you on the national media’s radar, but it doesn’t bring quite the same amount of pressure as if you were a top 10 team.

The starting lineup is one that I believe will change a lot this year; the only guy who Dana Altman has even said will start so far is Payton Pritchard. Alongside Pritchard is returning sophomore Will Richardson, but with the addition of graduate transfer Anthony Mathis, the shooting guard position could be one to keep an eye on.

Also, true freshman Addison Patterson  hopes to get into the mix. The great thing about Patterson is he is able to play both guard spots -- and even a little at small forward.

Altman will have his hands full deciding who plays at the guard spot for the perfect blend of talent and experience.

At small forward they have a plethora of guys who could start. But just from his combo of talent and experience, it would make sense if we see Chris Duarte at the 3 spot. Duarte is the former junior college player of the year, and he led the nation in steals two seasons ago.

True freshman Chandler Lawson and Lok Wur are intriguing talented, although Wur may redshirt. He’s very talented, but still quite raw physically. However I’d expect Memphis native Lawson to get some solid minutes at the backup 3 spot.

It is quite tricky to predict what will happen with the bigs. By the end of the season, I believe the frontline will be the deepest part of the team. But for now, the coaches have some lineup adjustments to make.

CJ Walker is the talented high 4-star freshman who is the kind of player Altman loves to recruit: high motor, long for his size, and can basically jump out of the arena. He’ll be pushing for starter minutes this season, especially with the injury to sophomore Francis Okoro; he could even see himself starting in the opener.

Also down low is UNLV grad transfer Shakur Juiston. Juiston is listed at 6-7, 225 pounds; however, he can play that stretch 4 position for Altman. If Okoro is not be available for Fresno, there is a scenario where Juiston gets the starting nod at the 5 spot.

The prize of Oregon’s 2019 class was center N’Faly Dante. However, he won’t be eligible to play in the first nine games for Oregon. It appears he’ll rejoin the team December 14, when Oregon takes on Michigan.

When Dante comes aboard, he’s just too much of a force to not start. However, Okoro was able to really progress last season, so it will be interesting to watch how the center position shakes out.

Fresno State was able to finish third in the Mountain West last season with a record of 23-9.

The Bulldogs aren’t projected to finish quite as well this year because they lost two players who averaged 18 points a game: Braxton Huggins and Deshon Taylor. However, they still are a solid team in a conference that produces a few tournament teams every season.

Fresno will be looking to make a statement early against the Pac-12 favorites, so Oregon cannot come out thinking the Bulldogs will just roll over.

The expectations for the Ducks are high --  internally and externally. And after last season's surprise Sweet 16 run, I know many fans are expecting a lot.

This Oregon team has a few veterans, a strong group of sophomores, and a few talented freshman. It’s a great recipe for success, and one we have seen recently from teams who have won the national championship.

The Ducks will be tested early and often, with big games against Memphis, Michigan and potential matchups with Gonzaga and North Carolina in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

It’s going to be a fun season, so buckle up and get ready.


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