Impact: 2017 Basketball Class
University of Oregon basketball finished their historic season with a loss to the future champions, UNC, in the Final Four.
After the season had ended Jordan Bell, Chris Boucher, Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey, and Dylan Ennis, all declared for the draft. Casey Benson decided that he wanted to graduate and transfer to Grand Canyon University to play his last year there. And Kavell Bigby-Williams’ status is unknown as he can transfer but has not yet decided whether he will leave Oregon. With six players gone and one with the option to leave what does the future freshman class hold for the Ducks?
Oregon ended up at the number twelve spot on ESPN’s national recruiting rankings. Signing two players in ESPN’s Top 100; compared to one, Payton Pritchard, in 2016.
First up, Troy Brown Jr., a small forward five-star recruit out of Centennial High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. He has multiple accolades attached to his name including ESPN Top 100, gold medal winner with the U17 Olympic team, and a McDonald’s All-American. Not only was he named a McDonald’s All-American but he had an excellent performance among the nation’s best high school players scoring twelve point, seven rebounds, and two steals. Troy Brown Jr.standing at 6’7” and weighing in at 210 pounds combined with his athleticism and ball handling skills provide a unique set of skills that Oregon desperately needs.
Next, Victor Bailey Jr. listed as a shooting guard out of McNeil High School in Austin, Texas ranked in ESPN’s Top 100. Victor Bailey Jr. brings an electric style of play with him with a solid mid-range shot as well as an ability to drive to the rim. Other strong points of Bailey Jr.’s include his control of the court and his ability to play multiple positions. Another exciting point around Bailey Jr. is that he is from Texas; previously the only recruit in recent history from that area of the country is Casey Benson from Arizona. This addition of Victor Bailey Jr. should leave Duck fans excited for the possibility of talent from areas previously not visited by the Ducks.
The third commit for Oregon basketball is Abu Kigab as a small forward born in Sudan who grew up in St. Catherines, Canada and played for Prolific Prep out of Napa, California. Standing at 6’7” and nearly 200 pounds Abu is no stranger with the rim and has no problems getting there as he excels at driving to the rim and finishing the play. And just like graduating big man Chris Boucher he also has a three point shot in his arsenal. Rounding out his trifecta of appealing skill she hustles on both sides of the floor creating just as many plays on defense as offense. Abu continues the lineage of Canadian players coming to Eugene and will surely in the success that fellow Canadians have had in the program.
The last recruit for Oregon basketball is Kenneth Wooten a power forward out of Trinity International in Las Vegas, Nevada. The tallest of the new freshman he stands at a 6’9” which gives him the flexibility to play as a power forward or center. He uses that 6’9” frame to dominate the rim both on both sides of the court. He also has a strong transition game that lends itself well to his style of play. He can replace Bell and Boucher as an aggressive post player.
Who Will Replace Kavell Bigby-Williams
Oregon fans got to see a lot of player rotation from off the bench this season especially after Chris Boucher's injury late in the season, compared to the real lack of player rotation in the 2015-2016 season. Two players Duck fans might have seen on the bench but not know that much about where Paul White and M.J. Cage.
Paul White, a transfer out of Georgetown, was a surprise addition for most Oregon Duck fans especially considering he visited when Altman and the team were in Spain. Because White is a transfer, he was not eligible for the 2016-2017 season. When White does get to play this upcoming season, he will be a redshirt junior. With both Bell and Boucher leaving, White is a versatile player standing at 6'8" who can play multiple positions for the Ducks. White was the 50th best player in the country coming out of high school and received offers from Arizona, Baylor, U Conn, and several others before deciding on Georgetown. And after his sophomore year, he was looking at schools like Nebraska before deciding on Oregon. White has been hard at work during his redshirt season becoming a key player in Oregon practices working on his overall game. With two of Oregon's big man leaving and Williams still with the option to leave White will be a key player as he has both the size and experience that Oregon will lack this upcoming season.
Next is M.J. Cage, a redshirt freshman, from Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, CA. A three-star recruit out of high school Cage was thought to be a lock for San Diego State as he is the son of San Diego State great, Michael Cage Sr. However, after a report came to light that the NCAA was looking into the SDSU basketball program for possible rule violations. Cage decided to commit to the University of Oregon.
The decision was made for Cage to redshirt his freshman season after suffering a concussion and then a knee injury in practices. Standing at 6'10" Cage would have had a small role last season probably sharing time with Jordan Bell and Chris Boucher. Before his knee injury, Cage got to play with Oregon in Spain where he received positive marks from both players and coaches. During his redshirt season, he has worked on his overall game, and coach Altman said one of the most important area's he needs work is his overall strength. Cage has a nice touch for a big man, and along with his length and basketball, intelligence will be a useful player for the Ducks next year.
Game Preview: Wyoming
This game will be the first time that Oregon plays the Cowboys in Wyoming. The last time these two programs faced off was in the 2014 season, the same season that Oregon made it to the inaugural National Championship, and Marcus won the Heisman trophy. That final score was 48-14 with Oregon taking the game by storm. This rematch in Laramie will show two very different teams than the two that met back in 2014.
ESPN gives Oregon an 84.7% chance of winning this game against the Wyoming Cowboys. That percentage might surprise some fans as ESPN gave Oregon an 85.6% of beating Nebraska. It's not the biggest difference but here are some factors why experts expect it to be a closer game.
Not only will this be the Ducks first visit to Wyoming it will also be the first away game of the 2017 season for this young and inexperienced team. Wyoming is coming off a 2016 season where they went undefeated at home winning all six matchups. Among those victories include upsetting No. 13 ranked Boise St. and No. 24 ranked San Diego St. Combine that with the fact that last season Oregon won only one of their away games narrowly beating Utah 30-28. Look for Oregon to try and distance themselves from last year by making a statement against the Cowboys.
Wyoming re-signed head coach Craig Bohl, 2016 Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year, to a seven-year contract. The decision to re-up his contract was done to help cement the pieces involved in making this program competitive on a national level. Bohl came to Wyoming after winning his third FCS Championship title in 2013 with North Dakota State. Bohl who both played and coached under Hall of Fame coach Tom Osborne at Nebraska brought that Nebraska style toughness to Wyoming and the program has not looked back since.
Playing for Nebraska as well as coaching at Nebraska under the legendary coach Tom Osborne, the blue-collar work ethic has been ingrained in Bohl's coaching. Bohl has been quoted saying, " We’re going to have our hand in the dirt and knock the s*** out of you” about highly recruited players at other programs. Wyoming plays with a tenacity and chip on its shoulder that used to be commonplace. But has now taken a back seat to up-tempo offenses. Don't expect that from Wyoming even though they have one of the elite quarterbacks in the country.
Wyoming and Bohl approach recruiting the same way that Southern Utah does, they don't try to go for players that look for programs with flash and pizazz because they know they can't compete on that level. They instead look for players that work hard and go under the radar of bigger programs. A prime example of this style of recruiting is the Cowboy's junior QB Josh Allen who out of high school was an under looked prospect with a low ranking. Put him in the Wyoming program, and as a junior, he is considered a top QB in the country. Look for Allen to make a big impact come September 16th.
Led by a junior quarterback the Cowboy's offense is not to be taken lightly posing threats in the air and on the ground. Brian Hill put the Cowboys running game on his back (sometimes literally) and finished the season tied with Oklahoma at 28th in the country for rushing attack. However, Hill has since left for the NFL leaving sophomore, Milo Hall, to head the position. Hall was a top player coming out of Colorado and coaches have high expectations for the sophomore this season. Although Allen is a top QB, last season after throwing for 3,203 yards and 28 touchdowns he rushed for 523 yards and scored seven more on the ground, his wide receivers are young, and I mean really young the oldest is sophomore Joseph Austin. I have no doubt that Allen is incredibly talented, but it will be interesting to see what he will be able to do with this young group.
The Cowboy's defense is where you will find a lot of the difference makers for the Cowboy's starting with their star defensive back Andrew Wingard who finished last season as a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award. Wingard, with 131 tackles last season, is the heart of a defense that is known for its grittiness and toughness on the line so expect some of the biggest plays to happen at the line of scrimmage. Another notable player on defense is returning All-American linebacker Logan Wilson who made the switch to weakside linebacker from strong safety and is currently number one on the depth charts for that position.