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Pac 10 Basketball Preview: Oregon

Key Returners: Tajuan Porter (13.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.4 APG), Joevan Catron (8.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.2 APG)

Key Losses: Malik Hairston (16.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.1 APG), Maarty Leunen (15.2 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 2.8 APG), Bryce Taylor (12.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG),

Key Recruits: Michael Dunigan (4/5 Rivals, #6 C)

Ernie kent was probably sitting on one of the hottest seats in the Pac 10 near the end of last season. After returning four starters from a team that made it to the elite eight there were high expectations for Oregon coming in to last season, but instead the Duck;s had to pull off a three game winning streak at the end of theseason just to get to .500 in conference and (barely) secure an NCAA tournament bid. On the surface it appears that the team struggled to replace PG Aaron Brooks and that many players failed to improve significantly, but that is only a small part of the story.

Much was said about the loss of Aaron Brooks and how no player really stepped up to play PG. This is partially true as Tajuan Porter was expected to play point. It appears though that the diminuitive guard, standing at a very slight 5'6", is a shooter at heart and may not be suited to running a team. Their is hope in Kamyron Brown who was the first player off of the bench last year and averaged a team high 3.1 assists per game last season and who will almost certainly start at the 1 for the Ducks next season. It is also fair to say that some players stagnated a bit, as Porter failed to improve his stats despite the fact that he took many more shots year over year and although Bryce Taylor's stat line improved slightly, his shooting percentages and efficiency were down. but this was offset by the improved play of Malik Hairston and Maarty Leunen who somehow managed to lead the team in 3 pt shooting percentage (at nearly 50% for the season), rebounds, and steals while playing at power forward.

The loss of Brooks was actually greatly exaggerated, and the truth of the matter appears to be that Oregon forgot how to play defense. The 06-07 Ducks scored 113 points per one hundred possessions (POP) while allowing 98.7, but while the 07-08 edition kept pace on offense at 112 points per one hundred possessions they also allowed 106 points per one hundred possessions to be scored on them on average. Part of this can be attributed to a more difficult schedule, but even the adjusted efficiency metrics used by Ken Pomeroy indicate that Oregon regressed significantly in defensive play. Certainly a lack of team play on defense cannot be blamed solely on the departure of a single player.

Like California, Oregon has a glut of back court players and are distinctly lacking in bigs. Joevan Catron is the leading returning rebounder, but at 6'6" he is not big enough anchor the front court by himself. Incoming player Michael Dunigan will be expected to play some serious minutes as a true freshman and the team's fate will be determined by his ability to hold his own in the paint without much support outside of Catron. Their is some talent, but the glaring lack in the front and the departure of so much production and experience is difficult to ignore. Ernie Kent will likely find himself on the coaching hot seat once again before the season is over.

Prediction: 8th