Predicting The Starting Rotation For Oregon’s 2023 Men’s Basketball Team

It was not the season that many thought they would see out of the Ducks in 2022. Coming into the season, they were ranked No. 13 in the nation and fresh off a sweet 16 appearance in 2021. The roster was a little different for head coach Dana Altman. He had to account for four seniors moving on to go pro while three more players left via the transfer portal. 

Staying for the 21-22 season were Will Richardson, Eric Williams Jr., Nfaly Dante, and Franck Kepnang. As expected, Altman got to work in the transfer portal to help replenish his roster. He proved once again that even when his situation looks questionable, he can continually formulate a competitive roster. The new consistent additions to the rotation were Jacob Young, Quincy Guerrier, De’Vion Harmon, and Rivaldo Soares.

The new roster had an up-and-down year and quickly fell out of the top 25 after losing two out of their first three games to SMU and BYU. Things switched right before league play began after a tough loss to then-ranked No. 1 Baylor. The team strung some wins together, heading into March upsetting then ranked No. 12 UCLA and notably losing by three to top-3 Arizona. A sloppy finish to end the season forced the Ducks to need a Pac-12 tournament victory to return to the NCAA tournament. That victory never came, with a second-round loss to Colorado sending them to the NIT tournament. 

This offseason again hasn’t been kind to Altman’s squad. Williams, Harmon, Kepnang, and Isaac Johnson decided to hit the transfer portal while Young ran out of eligibility. Altman has also lost out on two blue-chip recruits, as Dior Johnson switched his commitment to the University of Pittsburgh, while Oregon native Mookie Cook de-committed from the program yet still considers it an option. The new additions for the upcoming season include four transfers and a single five-star freshman. With the season a few months away, I look at what a potential starting rotation could look like.

Point Guard – Will Richardson

Before the 21-22 season began, Richardson was quite possibly considered one of the most likely Ducks to get drafted following the year. He had been with the team for three seasons working alongside future first-round picks Payton Pritchard and Chris Duarte, and was indeed ready for his new role in the offense. The career-high season did come during his senior season, but the improvement was not to his expectation. His points per game went from 11.3 to 14.1, with similar assist and rebound numbers from previous years. His three-point percentage declined for the second straight year falling from a Pac-12 leading 46.9% in 2019 to 38.8% last year.

Richardson has started in all but one of his four collegiate seasons, and his fifth will likely not change anything. His production is still there, and nobody on the team has more time in Eugene than him. I expect him to be the leader of a roster that usually figures things out as the year goes along. Battling through injuries and a season-ending illness, Richardson did not go out the way he intended to do. At Oregon, he has gone to the sweet 16 twice and has entered his name on the list of Duck greats, cracking the top 10 in all-time assists last season. He will close out his career the right way and be the glue that holds Altman’s uniquely constructed rosters together.

Shooting Guard – Jermaine Couisnard

The first new player who will crack the starting rotation for the Ducks this season is Jermaine Couisnard. Couisnard transferred to Oregon from South Carolina, where he led the team in scoring. He is an average size guard at 6’4 but plays physically on the defensive end. He averaged 12 points a game and had a career-high night of 33 over LSU. 

The redshirt senior has two years of eligibility remaining and looks to be a starter for both. He fits right into the Ducks’ rotation as both Young and Harmon were guards who left this offseason. Couisnard has the most experience out of the possible options and clearly can contribute at the highest level. I expect him to be utilized as a point guard and small forward in rotations as well, but for the time being, the two position seems the best fit for the Chicago native.

Small Forward – Quincy Guerrier 

Before you question yourself, no, this is not a typo. Despite being the Ducks’ main “4” position last season, I think this season sets up Guerrier to be on the opposite wing. The game of basketball is becoming positionless as time goes on, and at the collegiate stage, the three and four positions often intertwine. Last year the Ducks went small with a guard at this position, but with the current roster, I think Guerrier best suits their needs.

Guerrier stands at 6-foot-8, giving him great length for perimeter defense. On the offensive side of the ball, he is coming off a 10.1 point per game season with a slight improvement in three-point percentage (32.7). Guerrier thought about going pro following his first season at Oregon but ultimately returned for his senior year. As another returning starter from a year ago, I think it will be hard to kick him out of the rotation. He brings the team great fundamentals and will be very useful on a potential tournament run.

Power Forward – Kel’el Ware

The main reason for my proposed position change for Guerrier was so that Kel’el Ware could take over the four position. Ware is a 7-footer who typically plays center. He was a five-star recruit in the 2022 class and became one of the highest-rated recruits in Oregon history. Although recent five-star Oregon recruits, Nate Bittle and C.J. Walker, have yet or failed to crack the starting lineup, I believe Ware changes the cycle.

He can score at will, rebound efficiently, and send back shots at ease. He has a smaller frame, giving him a better chance at success in college at the four spot. Being on the wing and in the paint will benefit him greatly as the three-point shooter will continue to have chances to fire from long range. Defensively, he averaged almost six blocks a game in his final prep season and is more than capable of becoming the next great Oregon shot blocker.

Center – N’Faly Dante

Completing my projected starting rotation for Oregon is the 6-foot-11 senior N’Faly Dante. Dante is the third returning starter from a season ago and is approaching his fourth college basketball season. The former five-star recruit is finally coming off of a healthy season. His first two years at Oregon were met with injuries, resulting in only 18 games. 

Last year, he appeared in 32 games, making 27 starts and averaging 8.1 points and 6.3 rebounds. As the season went on, Dante really started to show off his talent and became vital in the paint, splitting time with Kepnang. Kepnang and Johnson are gone, leaving the potential positional competition to Bittle and Ware (if they keep him at center). I expect him to close out his career as the starter while aiming for another Pac-12 title and more.

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