Photo courtesy of Eric Evans/Oregon athletics
No. 17 Oregon is 8-1 headed into Thursday night’s contest against a respected Colorado team.
The Ducks’ only loss came at the hands of the 13th-ranked Missouri Tigers in their first game of the season. Since then, this Ducks team has changed a ton. Oregon ranks 18th in the country for strength of record and looks to improve on that in Boulder.
As things stand right now, Oregon is positioned to be one of four Pac-12 teams in the dance. Additionally, the Ducks are pegged to be around a No. 4 seed as presently constructed.
One thing is for certain though — Dana Altman-coached teams get better every day. Eugene Omoruyi and Chris Duarte have been the focal points of the Ducks’ offense, but Oregon’s early-season success can be attributed to the play of newcomers. A strong roster is also expected to get stronger with the return of a player who was third on the team in scoring last season.
Additions to the Team
All transfers were granted instant eligibility to play this season due to COVID-19. For an Oregon team replacing its top two scorers from last season, that was a blessing. Here’s a look at some of those players:
- Aaron Estrada – With the injury to Oregon’s starting point guard Will Richardson, Estrada has been a key piece in the backcourt to help the young Jalen Terry. At Saint Peters last season, Estrada was the Rookie of the Year in the MAAC — a conference that includes the likes of Iona. As a transfer, he was regarded as an elite shooting guard. Estrada chose Oregon over Creighton and Syracuse. With key early-season injuries, Estrada has provided valuable depth for the Ducks, averaging nearly 20 minutes per game over the last three contests.
- LJ Figueroa – Figueroa originally planned to put his name into the NBA Draft instead of playing in college this season. However, he chose to transfer to Oregon, instead giving the Ducks another bonafide scorer. At St. John’s, Figueroa was one of the best scorers in the Big East over the last couple years and has given Altman another scoring threat on the offense. Figueroa averages 9.5 points per game, but enters Thursday night’s contest having scored in double figures in three straight games.
- Franck Kepnang – Kepnang isn’t the scorer Figueroa is, but he has all the ability to develop into a monster. Originally a part of the 2021 recruiting class, Kepnang was able to reclassify and get approved to play for Oregon this season. Kepnang is a shot blocking, aggressive rebounder who will punish you at the rim. The big man has got a high motor and a lot of energy. If Altman can develop his offensive game, he will be a threat for years to come in the Pac-12. The Cameroon native has yet to appear in a game this season.
Returning From Injury
- Will Richardson – Oregon spent all offseason preparing with the thought that blue chip Will Richardson would be its point guard. Sadly, right before the season, Richardson had to undergo thumb surgery and miss significant time. Richardson has more experience than any other player on the Ducks’ roster. When Richardson gets back, Altman will add an experienced leader and elite sharpshooter to prepare for a run in the conference tournament.