OREGON Last Season: 24-10 (13-5) Who’s Back? With Jorge Gutierrez graduating, the Pac-12 needs someone to step into the “most hated player by opposing fans” role. For that, I give you EJ Singler. With a face that just screams “punch me”, and a hard working attitude to annoy everyone, Singler is so much more than his 13.6 points and 5.6 rebounds a game. He’ll get help from senior Tony Woods who has a chance to break Oregon’s school career blocked shots record this season. Who’s Gone? Devoe Joseph is going to be a huge loss. Huge. His 16.7 points per game will not be easily replaced, and someone is going to have to step up for the team in scoring. If Singler can bring a little more offense, the Ducks could survive this, but there will be growing pains at first. The Ducks also took some big hits in the frontcourt as they lost leading rebounder Olu Ashaolu (5.6 per game) along with depth in Jeremy Jacob and Tyrone Nared. Who’s New? Dominic Artis is legit. And provided that he doesn’t do the same thing Jabari Brown did last year and leave after two games, he should be one of the best freshmen in the Pac-12. The PG is tiny, but very fast, and should be able to lead the Ducks to some easy baskets in the open court. On the opposite end of the spectrum from Artis is incoming freshman Arik Armstead, who is currently playing football for Oregon and will join the basketball team sometime in January. He’s 6-foot-8, 280 lbs and should be able to provide some physicality to the Ducks attack in conference play. They also have two freshmen that the Buffs pursued in Ben Carter and Dameyon Dotson. Carter is a similar player to Singler, and Dotson is a prolific scoring swingman who should provide punch off of the bench. Keep an eye on Arsalan Kazemi, the transfer from Rice. If given immediate eligibility, he could propel the Ducks to a top 4 spot in the Pac-12. Best Case Scenario: Artis leads the attack and shows why he was one of the top recruits on the west coast. The transfers all gel, and Altman coaches them up into a fourth place finish in the Pac-12. The Ducks get hot in the Pac-12 tournament behind Singler and they cut down the nets en route to an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Worst Case Scenario: The transfers don’t gel, and the Ducks end up with a similar situation to last year where half of the roster decides to leave and the other half is ineligible after they get caught hanging out with the football team. Altman gets suspended during conference play after spending part of the second half of the UCLA game trying to convince numerous Bruins that they would enjoy transferring to Eugene. JGIsland’s Stat You Should Know: Only 11 teams in the NCAA were more experienced than Oregon was last year (averaging 2.41 years as a team). They graduated 5 of those guys, 2 who played more than 70% of the minutes (Joseph & Sim). With three incoming transfers (Woods, Kazemi and Branch) talent may not be the issue but experience may be. The uber-efficient E.J. Singler (117.2 Orgt) is going to have to not only pick up where he left off but become the floor and vocal leader of the team. PacHoops’ Take: This is a squad that lost a lot. Fortunate for them, Dana Altman manages to make a little go a long way. If he’s going to do it again, it’ll be with seven newcomers and one of my favorite players in the conference. Or at least he was when he had those flowing locks. EJ Singler’s current photo on the UO website shows a tighter do. Did he not get the memo? This is Oregon; you’re supposed to have flashy headgear. Alas, we’ll leave that to Uncle Phil because while he takes care of dome wear, Singler will be busy filling stat sheets. What’s more, he’s a senior and I love seniors; particularly when the team is definitively theirs. And make no bones about it: These are EJ Singler’s Ducks. One other thing; I don’t always love the PG reigns being handed over to a freshman (see: Turner, Josiah) but by all accounts, Dominic Artis can handle the load left him by the gutsy Garret Sim. Goose’s Pick: 7th in the Pac-12, NIT. OREGON STATE Last Season: 21-15 (7-11) Who’s Back? Size. Lots and lots of size. Leading the way is big man Devon Collier. The 6-foot-8 junior is their best inside scorer, and put up 13.1 points and 5.2 rebounds a game for the Beavers last year. Joining him up front though are Eric Moreland (5.2 points, 6.8 rebounds per game), Angus Brandt and Daniel Gomis – all big men that are over 6-foot-10 and give the Beavers the potential of throwing three big men out there at the same time. They also return a backcourt of PG Ahmad Starks (12.1 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists per game) and SG Roberto Nelson (9.3 points, 2.6 rebounds per game). Who’s Gone? Jared Cunningham. Arguably the toughest player in the conference to replace, Cunningham put up 17.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals a game for OSU last year and was arguably their best defender. The loss of Cunningham also reportedly has coach Craig Robinson debating going with a man-to-man defense this season instead of his usual 1-3-1. Who’s New? The Beavers are going to have some freshman that help bring the defensive pain. Leading the way is forward Langston Morris-Walker – a 6-foot-5 wing who was responsible for guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player – a role he’ll probably have in Corvallis as well. Along with him, they have 6-foot-6 Victor Robbins and 6-foot-7 Jarmal Reid who should be able to add some defense. And just in case the thirty big men that OSU has all go down with injuries, they also are getting a boost from 6-foot-9 freshman Olaf Schaftenaar. Olaf (I’m not typing that name more than I have to) is a bit of a small forward in a big man’s body, so it’ll be interesting to see how OSU uses him this year. Best Case Scenario: They use their size similar to Stanford last year and pound teams inside all season long in the Pac-12, giving them a top 6 finish and a competitive performance in the Pac-12 tournament. They continue the Stanford blueprint all the way to an NIT championship. Worst Case Scenario: They miss Cunningham badly. The team never quite gels, and everyone feels pressure having to try to be “the man”. OSU stumbles and can’t get any semblance of an offensive scheme, and the team ends up missing out on all postseason tournaments as Robinson is let go, and the team decides to go in a different direction. JGIsland’s Stat You Should Know: With Cunningham jumping to the league, teams can expect to get a heavy dose of Devon Collier. Collier had a great sophomore campaign, leading the team in ORtg (122), eFG% (61.5) and managed to turn the ball over on only 13% of possessions while having the ball nearly 22% of the time. Can he keep this up with Cunningham gone and the focus shifted to him? PacHoops’ Take: *insert presidential joke here* And I will in a minute. There’s a pretty decent core returning to Corvallis for the First Brother-in-Law lead by the lengthy Devon Collier who’s done nothing but improve for OSU. He’ll be expected to carry the scoring load with Jared Cunningham departed but that doesn’t grossly concern me. Each of the Beavers’ six significant returners averaged five-or-more ppg. Encouraging. Of course if this group continues to play enigmatic basketball, as has been the case under CRob, OSU could be looking at a win percentage that resembles the presidential approval rating. Goose’s Pick: 9th in the Pac-12, CBI.