Oregon will not be at full strength when it tips off the college basketball season Friday against Georgetown in South Korea. Sophomore point guard Dominic Artis and forward Ben Carter have been suspended indefinitely for violating NCAA rules involving impermissible benefits, the school announced Tuesday afternoon.
The announcement follows a report from Campus Insiders indicating that Artis, Carter and three former Oregon players – forward Carlos Emery and guards Willie Moore and Fred Richardson – had sold “exclusive Nike shoes” issued by the team last Spring. Sources confirmed the news to DuckTerritory.com, who wrote that Artis and Carter are expected to miss nine games. A source who spoke to CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish said the players “could’ve just lied and said the shoes were stolen.” That Oregon was forthright about the violation bodes well for its chances of getting Artis and Carter back sooner rather than later.
The suspension, provided it doesn’t spill into the conference season, shouldn’t amount to much more than a minor hiccup for the Ducks. Even without Artis, who averaged 8.5 points and 3.2 assists per game last season, the Ducks have one of the best backcourts in the Pac-12 -- a deep group featuring senior Johnathan Loyd, sophomore Damyeon Dotson and recently cleared Houston transfer Joseph Young. Losing Artis hurts -- the Ducks suffered four of their nine losses last season while Artis sat out with a foot injury -- but the Ducks have enough depth to compensate.
Not having Carter is a more serious concern, as the Ducks’ don’t have many viable alternatives in the frontcourt. Carter might not have been a lock to start the Ducks’ season opener, but he was one of their best reserve options. Seniors Waverly Austin and Richard Amardi will take on more minutes, and the Ducks will hope UNLV transfer Mike Moser, who struggled last season while dealing with an injury, can regain the All-Conference-level form he displayed in 2011-12.
Looking at Oregon’s schedule, Friday’s game against the Hoyas will be a challenge -- not only because Georgetown figures to be one of the best teams in the new Big East, but also because the Ducks could struggle to adjust without two major contributors. The only three other semi-difficult games Oregon faces before conference play are at Ole Miss on December 8 and at home against Illinois on December 14 and BYU on Dec 21.
The Ducks should be able to win all of those games without Artis and Carter, with the possible exception of Friday’s season opener. This isn’t the way any team with conference title aspirations wants to begin its season, but until we get a definitive ruling on how many games the two players will miss, it’s best to avoid overreacting. Oregon should be fine as long as Artis and Carter are back for conference play.