SAN FRANCISCO – While the Oregon football program may be taking a break from competing for national championships, the men’s basketball team looks capable of bringing a title back to Eugene.
The Ducks, ranked No. 5 in the USA Today poll of coaches, were picked to win the Pac-12 in the preseason media poll for the first time in program history. The Ducks received 23 of 27 possible first-place votes from the writers, who have correctly predicted the champion 14 times in 24 years.
The media had an easy choice this year as the Ducks are the defending champions and return all their impact players from last year’s team, which was a No. 1 NCAA tournament seed and made it to the Elite Eight.
Coach Dana Altman did not diminish the burden of higher expectations placed on his team at Pac-12 Media Day.
“It’s a different position for our team to be in,” Altman said. “I think it’s something that our guys will have to learn to adjust how hard people are going to come after them.”
Dillon Brooks, who is overcoming a foot injury, and Chris Boucher are early favorites for Pac-12 Player of the Year honors. Tyler Dorsey, who accompanied Altman to San Francisco for Media Day, considered turning pro after his freshman season and spent this summer with the Greek national team.
The Ducks are full of second-year players who could have turned pro. In an era where talented players like USC’s Julian Jacobs and Nikola Jovanovic are willing to turn pro even when they are unlikely to be drafted, having pro-caliber sophomores is a luxury.
Even Boucher, a senior, is in just his second year at UO after transferring from a junior college.
“I think after talent, experience is the second-biggest variable to how successful a team can be,” Altman said. “So, I think we are talented, and I think our experience will be a benefit.”