Whereas a foot injury suffered by Dominic Artis last February nearly torpedoed Oregon's NCAA tournament hopes, the Ducks are far better equipped to cope without their starting point guard this season.
It won't be as easy, however, to make up for the absence of big man Ben Carter.
Oregon suspended Artis and Carter indefinitely on Tuesday because both sophomores admitted to selling Nike shoes the university provided them, a rules violation the school self-reported to the NCAA. It's unclear exactly how long both will have to sit at this point, but DuckTerritory.com reported the suspensions are expected to be about nine games apiece.
Were Artis and Carter to sit for that long, they would miss the bulk of Oregon's non-league schedule including Friday's season opener against Georgetown in Korea and December games against Ole Miss and Illinois. A Dec. 21 home game against BYU is the 11th game of Oregon's season and conference play begins two weeks later on Jan. 2.
The importance of Artis' speed and playmaking ability in Oregon's fast-paced system was obvious last February when the Ducks lost four of the nine games he missed due to injury and two more as he was still trying to shake off the rust. The impact may not be so drastic this season, however, because the Ducks have other point guards who can help absorb the loss.
One obvious replacement is senior Johnathan Loyd, who lacks the scoring punch Artis can provide but ran the offense and distributed the ball effectively in Artis' absence. Detroit transfer Jason Calliste, a sweet-shooting combo guard with experience at point guard, also will likely see more playing time while Artis is out.
Carter only played sparingly as a freshman behind starters Arsalan Kazemi and Tony Woods, but his suspension could be tougher for the Ducks because they don't have the same frontcourt depth that they do in the backcourt. Only Oregon players besides Carter are 6-foot-8 or taller, and one is football player Arik Armstead, who won't join the team until mid-January.
Neither UNLV transfer Mike Moser nor fellow transfer Richard Amardi are traditional big men who defend the rim and play with their back-to-the-basket. That leaves only 6-foot-11 Waverly Austin to fill that role until Carter's return.
Ultimately, the suspensions may cost Oregon a victory or two in November and December, but the Ducks have the firepower to make up for that in conference play. They just have to hope that Austin stays healthy and steps up while Carter is out because there aren't any options behind him.
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