Once March Madness and the NCAA Tournament ends in early April, it’s not long before the media starts pumping out their best guesses for who will take home the trophy a year later.
Sure enough, ESPN Staff Writer Jeff Borzello has released his “Way Too Early” Top-25 list for next year’s men’s college basketball season, and in it Borzello slated the Oregon Ducks at No. 19.
The Top-25 ranking is surely a surprise after one of the more disappointing seasons in recent memory as Oregon finished with a 20-15 overall record and went just 11-9 in the Pac-12. Borzello acknowledges this, but he also reaffirms his faith in Head Coach Dana Altman.
Oregon Head Coach Dana Altman
“I’m a proponent of giving Dana Altman-coached teams the benefit of the doubt, and that backfired on me this past season,” wrote Borzello. “But 2021-22 will likely end up as an outlier.”
Oregon has a few issues to tackle before they can ascend back to the elite ranks of college basketball. The first is to iron out who’s staying and who’s going.
Key front court players Eric Williams Jr. and Franck Kepnang have already announced they will not be returning to Eugene next season. Two more names to keep an eye on are perennial starters Will Richardson and N’Faly Danteas neither have gone public with their intentions for the 2022 season.
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Oregon Point Guard Will Richardson
Another factor at play here are the fruits of Oregon’s efforts on the recruiting trail.
The Ducks signed two five-stars in the 2022 recruiting cycle in point guard Dior Johnson and big man Kel’el Warewho will surely give Oregon’s roster a boost. The team also added Tyrone Williams and Brenan Rigsby from the junior college ranks, who are two of the top players in the country.
Oregon 2022 Signees Dior Johnson (L) and Kel’el Ware (R)
Oregon also picked up a recent verbal commitment from 2023 forward Mookie Cook, another 5-star prospect who’s set to play for Dana Altman. Cook is now tied with Bol Bol for the highest-ranked recruit to ever pledge to Oregon (according to 247Sports), however he’s not expected to be with the team for 2022 at this time.
With so many moving pieces on the roster and morale lower than usual, the Ducks will need an extra dose of Altman’s magic to live up to their top-25 projection. The Ducks are one of three Pac-12 teams to make Borzello’s list, with UCLA coming in at No. 3 and Arizona coming in at No. 10.
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