After coming into the 2022 season ranked 21st in the AP Poll, no Oregon Duck fan envisioned a third-round knockout to Wisconsin in the NIT as the team’s final fate. But, it encapsulated what was a disappointing season all around.
Now ahead of the 2023 season, the Ducks have a fresh new team. They’ve added several freshmen and some transfers as well. Oregon has also brought back a handful of their core starters, though they lost a few to the portal this offseason.
Below, I detail how high I think Oregon can fly this season, if they can get back to the NCAA tournament, and what they need to do to get there. We also look at which Ducks are back, who left, who has arrived, and how it all fits together.
AP Poll: Unranked (In 2022; No. 21)
Pac-12 Media Poll: No. 4 (In 2022: No. 3)
After such a disappointing 2022 season, the Oregon Ducks’ expectations heading into this season are understandably low. The benefit of that is it takes the pressure to be immediately elite off. This is because now the goal for the team is to get ranked, whereas last year the goal was to stay ranked.
Despite the lower expectations, I think this Oregon team still has a high ceiling. It will all depend on how much the returners have improved and how much of an impact the newcomers can make, both of which you read about below.
N’Faly Dante – Center
2022 Stats: 13.4 Pts/Game, 8.4 Reb/G, 1.1 Ast/G, 61.4 FG%
As Oregon’s starting center, N’Faly Dante was the Ducks’ most valuable player by far in 2022. After a few seasons of not fully realizing his potential, Dante broke out last season leading the team in scoring, rebounding, and scoring efficiency.
Jermaine Couisnard – Shooting Guard
2022 Stats: 12.8 Pts/G, 2.2 Ast/G, 3.1 Reb/G, 39.9 FG%
After being plagued by injuries for much of their season, Oregon needed a jolt in January to preserve their season, and when transfer guard Jermaine Couisnard finally debuted for the Ducks, that’s exactly what they got. Although he played a shorter season, Jermaine Cousinard’s 12.8 Pts/G was the highest among Oregon’s backcourt.
Keeshawn Barthelemy – Point Guard
2022 Stats: 9.3 Pts/G, 2.4 Ast/G, 2.0 Reb/G, 35.8 3P%
Keeshawn Barthelemy became one of the most crucial guys on the floor for the Ducks at the end of the season when he seemingly couldn’t miss from three. His 35.8% from deep was a team-high for players who shot more than four 3-pointers last season.
Nate Bittle – Power Forward
2022 Stats: 7.3 Pts/G, 5.1 Reb/G, 0.8 Ast/G, 49.0 FG%
Like Dante, Nate Bittle had a strong breakout last season, but I still think we haven’t seen the best version of Bittle. With Kel’el Ware and Quincy Gurrier gone, Nate Bittle’s role on the floor should see a sizable increase in 2023.
Kel’el Ware – Center
2022 Stats: 6.6 Pts/G, 4.1 Reb/G, 0.5 Ast/G, 45.7 FG%
As Oregon’s only 5-star recruit from 2022, Kel’el Ware was expected to immediately be one of the Ducks’ best players, which we never saw happen. Throughout the season, he and head coach Dana Altman never seemed to click, and Ware’s role decreased as the year went on resulting in his transfer to Indiana.
Will Richardson – Point Guard
2022 Stats: 12.2 Pts/G, 5.1 Ast/G, 3.6 Reb/G, 42.9 FG%
Will Richardson led the Ducks in minutes played, sitting for just over 4 minutes a game on average. After a pretty bad start to his season, Richardson was able to pull things together in the second half of the year. Although his late-season injury and Oregon’s NIT loss aren’t how he would’ve wanted to end his college career, his final season was still impressive and the Ducks will have a hard time replacing him.
Rivaldo Soares – Shooting Guard
2022 Stats: 7.2 Pts/G, 3.6 Reb/G, 1.8 Ast/G, 38.1 FG%
After the finish of the 2022 season, Rivaldo Soares hopped into the transfer portal. The loss of Soares isn’t Oregon’s biggest departure, but he was still a key player the Ducks’ will need to replace. Hopefully, one of Oregon’s new guards can fill his role as first man off the bench.
Quincy Guerrier – Forward
2022 Stats: 9.0 Pts/G, 4.6 Reb/G, 1.0 Ast/G, 42.3 FG%
Like Soares, Quincy Gurrier transferred out of Eugene after the close of last season. Despite usually coming off the bench, Gurrier was one of the Ducks top-five scorers — usually getting his points from corner threes or baseline cuts to the baskets. Hopefully, with the addition of KJ Evans (see below), Oregon will replace Gurrier and upgrade the forward position in 2023.
It’s hard to say where the Ducks will go this year. Their preseason expectations are much lower than they were last year — which is a good thing if you ask me — but they also do have tournament potential. The guys I think will make the difference for Oregon this year are the three true freshmen. I know Cook won’t play for a month or so, but if he, Evans, and Shelstad, can settle in and realize their potential quickly I think the Ducks have a very high ceiling this season.
Health will also end up being a major factor. Injuries plagued the Ducks a season ago, and things don’t look to be much better at the start of this season, with a number of guys already missing some time.
My Season Predictions
Pac-12 Placement: 4th
I think like last season, the Ducks will do well in the Pac-12 tournament, but get knocked out by one of the top three (Arizona, USC, and UCLA) in the semifinal
NCAA Tournament: No. 9 seed (at-large bid) and a Sweet Sixteen appearance
This is for sure an ambitious prediction on my part, but I do think it’s within the realm of possibility. A nine-seed is achievable for the Ducks. The hard part is knocking off the one-seed (or the sixteen) in the round of 32, but we’ve seen it happen a fair amount in recent years. Looking at you Flordia Atlantic.
Team MVP: N’Faly Dante
This is the easy pick, but how can I not go with Dante? He led Oregon in scoring last season, is arguably the Ducks’ best defender, and there’s the chance he took a significant step forward this offseason. Additionally, Dante is now a fifth-year senior, and with how many young guys are on the team, I think he’ll find himself in a larger leadership role than before.
Best Freshman: Mookie Cook
I’m so excited to see what all of Oregon’s young guys have to offer this season. I think all three freshmen have the potential to be major players for Oregon down the stretch. I know picking Mookie Cook is a bit odd, since he won’t play for a while, but I think he’ll fit into Oregon’s lineup so well once he’s back. The Ducks will have Keeshawn Barthelemy running the point and N’Faly Dante down in the paint, which makes me think the missing piece could be an elite wing — which Cook is.