Ducks must handle expectations after last season's success
Oregon coach Dana Altman is preparing his team for the high expectations that have come with last season's success.
Oregon won a school-record 31 games while claiming the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles. The Ducks earned a first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and they advanced to Elite Eight for the first time since 2007.
The Ducks finished the season ranked No. 5 in the nation and they're likely to be high in the AP's preseason poll. Oregon was already selected to finish atop the league in the Pac-12's annual media poll for the first time in school history.
''I think it's something that our guys will have to learn to adjust how hard people are going to come after them. Not only within the league, but the projections on a national scale. We'll have our non-conference opponents fired up to play against us,'' Altman said about the expectations. ''So, it will be an adjustment our team will have to make. I'm interested to see how they'll handle it.''
Guard Tyler Dorsey, who averaged 13.4 points and 4.3 rebounds in 35 starts as a freshman last season, said the key will be preparation.
''We have to take one game at a time, be mentally prepared and focus on the opponent we're going to play that night, and just come in prepared,'' Dorsey said. ''We are going to have a target on our back, so we have to be ready.''
The Ducks are certainly in good shape to handle the pressure. They return four of five starters from last season's team, including junior forward Dillon Brooks, who led the team with 16.7 points per game. The only regular starter to graduate was Elgin Cook.
''I like our depth,'' Altman said. ''So those are the kind of things that can help you meet expectations because even if one or two players is off, we have players that have the ability to step up.''
FEET AT THE FOREFRONT: Brooks is expected to miss a few games at the start of the season following offseason foot surgery. ''He's champing at the bit,'' Altman said. ''He's ready to go. If it were up to him, he'd be practicing right now. But we'll listen to the doctors.''
The Ducks expect to have senior guard Dylan Ennis, who missed all but two games last season because of a stress fracture in his left foot. The NCAA approved his waiver for an extra year of eligibility this summer. A transfer from Villanova prior to last season, Ennis had already used a redshirt year.
GOING SMALL: Because of Brooks' absence, the Ducks could go with a three-guard lineup early in the season, Altman said. ''But I think our guys will look at that as a challenge. We've got good depth at the guard spots, and I think those guys will look at that as a challenge to pick up the areas that Dillon would generally do,'' he said.
HIGH PRAISE: Arizona coach Sean Miller was complimentary of the Ducks at the Pac-12's media day in San Francisco earlier this month.
''There is no question with who they have returning and Dana as a coach and the success they had one year ago. We have gone through that. When you get to that level in March, you are hungry to return and get a lot of confidence. I think Oregon has all the pieces to be one of college basketball's brightest teams this year,'' Miller said.
TOUGH NONCONFERENCE SCHEDULE: Oregon opens the season at home against Army on Nov. 11, then plays Baylor (ranked No. 21 at the end of last season) and Valparaiso before heading off to the Maui Invitational, where the Ducks join a field that includes North Carolina (No. 3 last season), Wisconsin, UConn, Georgetown, Tennessee, Oklahoma State and host Chaminade.