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Hoops Preview: Oregon is dealing with a lot of turnover. Can Mizzou capitalize?

Oregon is deep and talented once again, but is replacing much of last year’s rotation with transfers.

NCAA Basketball: California at Oregon Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

When Missouri first announced its slate of non-conference games for the 2020-2021 season, you could tell Cuonzo Martin wasn’t messing around in year four.

Fans of the program have long clamored for more respectable non-conference opponents as Missouri tries to muscle its way out of mediocrity. Cuonzo Martin seemingly obliged that request as the Tigers loaded up their non-conference slate with games against Wichita State, Utah, Illinois and even that one school to the west of us. Hell, they even added a date (and then subtracted it just as quickly) with Missouri State to boot.

However, as the disastrous response to COVID-19 continued to have sweeping effects throughout the year, it became clear that Martin and the Tigers would have to change tactics. With three of the above five games scrapped early on, Missouri quickly began looking for opponents to fill the schedule. Not wanting to sacrifice quality, Missouri struck up a conversation with Dana Altman and the Oregon Ducks early on. And while it took a while to get us here, the two sides announced earlier this week that they intended to meet up for a friendly duel in Omaha.

Look, it’s not the Border War, but being able to get Oregon on the schedule is an unmitigated win for Cuonzo Martin. The Ducks have been one of the country’s very best programs over the past decade, regularly playing deep into March. They’ve put several talented players in the NBA and appear to be an unflappable Pac-12 power for as long as Altman wants to stay in Eugene.

Getting a non-conference team like that to agree to a game looks great, even if you don’t come out on top. In a year when almost everyone is scrambling to fill their schedule, teams like Missouri — who will likely be on the bubble come March — need to load up their slate with opportunities. Oregon represents the first of many outside of the SEC and comes at an opportune time. The Ducks have been floating around the periphery of the first week of the schedule, looking for a game. Missouri was able to get its sea legs against Oral Roberts. If you’re going to catch Dana Altman’s perennial contender, you might as well do it off the top.

The Scout

The Starters

Position Missouri (1-0) Oregon (0-0)
Position Missouri (1-0) Oregon (0-0)
PG Xavier Pinson (Jr., 6'2", 170) Jalen Terry (Fr., 6'0", 165)
CG Dru Smith (Rs. Sr., 6'3", 203) Will Richardson (Jr., 6'5", 180)
WING Mark Smith (Sr., 6'5", 220) Chris Duarte (Sr., 6'6", 190)
PF Kobe Brown (So., 6'7", 240) Chandler Lawson (So. 6'8", 205)
POST Jeremiah Tilmon (Sr., 6'10", 260) N'Faly Dante (So., 6'11", 235)

Note: These starting lineups are projected.

Oregon was a borderline Top 15 team before COVID-19 claimed the 2019-2020 season, and the Ducks are returning to action looking much different than they did nine months ago. NCAA Player of the Year candidate Payton Pritchard is now earning a paycheck with the Boston Celtics, while seniors Anthony Mathis and Shakur Juiston also exhausted their eligibility. Aside from just losing seniors, however, the Ducks also fell victim to the transfer market. Francis Okoro, a one-time Missouri recruit, dipped out of Eugene after getting a 39 percent minutes share in his sophomore year to join Travis Ford and rising SLU Billikens. Former Top 50 recruit Addison Patterson also moved east, albeit not as dramatically, when he transferred to Nevada.

To account for a heavy loss of production, Altman dipped heavily into the transfer pool himself. The program is still waiting on waivers for LJ Figueroa (St. Johns’ leading scorer in 2019-2020) and Aaron Estrada, and it seems unlikely they’ll be cleared before Wednesday night’s match up. The Ducks will, however, get an influx of eligible talents who already took their redshirt season. Six-foot-six-inch forward Eugene Omoruyi was honorable mention All Big 10 before transferring after the 2019 season. Eric Williams Jr. was averaging 14 points per game at Duquesne before joining the Ducks. And Amauri Hardy will join Altman’s team as a graduate transfer after averaging 14.5 points per game last season at UNLV. So while the Ducks lost a lot of their own production, they’ll supplement the roster with experienced pieces... especially if Estrada and Figueroa can get immediate clearance.

The freshman class isn’t much to speak of, but there is one familiar face present. Jalen Terry, one of the Tigers’ biggest pursuits in the 2020 class, is one of two freshman on the roster (the other being a walk-on.) Terry was a Top 50 point guard out of Michigan before committing to the Ducks and should supplement some of the Ducks attrition at the guard position with his scoring ability.

When Missouri has the ball...

Missouri Offense vs. Oregon Defense

Team Adj. Eff. Poss. Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Team Adj. Eff. Poss. Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Missouri 106.7 (57) 14.7 (30) 60.9 (16) 22.8 (174) 42.4 (12) 28.1 (161) 40 (41) 61.5 (30) 72.2 (97) 7.7 (109) 9.4 (132)
Oregon* 97.1 (76) 18.3 (341) 47.3 (79) 19.8 (109) 31.1 (307) 29.5 (109) 32.6 (147) 46.2 (56) 73.3 (300) 9.6 (120) 11.4 (25)
*- Numbers from 2019-2020 Season
NCAA Basketball: Oral Roberts at Missouri
Xavier Pinson was one of many Tigers who thrived in the fast-paced ORU game. Will that momentum carry against Oregon?
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Does Missouri keep pushing the pace?

The quality of opponent likely had something to do with it, but Missouri’s win over Oral Roberts finally delivered on a long-promised effort to pick up the pace. After about a week of play, the Tigers are a Top 40 unit in the country in terms of pace.

However, that could be quickly challenged against an Oregon team that may look to slow things down. Over the past two years, the Ducks have been one of the slower teams in college basketball and will likely continue to trend that way after losing some of their faster pieces to graduation and the transfer portal. The Ducks, unlike the Golden Eagles, also have the size to match the Tigers down low, so Missouri would do well to get a solid chunk of points in transition. They’ll need to be a little more judicious with the ball — think the second half of ORU rather than the first — since Oregon rated as a top 25 team in steal rate in 2019-2020.

When Oregon has the ball...

Oregon Offense vs. Missouri Defense

Team Adj. Eff. Poss. Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Team Adj. Eff. Poss. Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Oregon* 117.1 (6) 17.9 (248) 54.3 (20) 17.5 (79) 32.7 (39) 28.9 (272) 39.6 (2) 51.4 (100) 70 (215) 9.6 (254) 6 (2)
Missouri 91.7 (47) 15.8 (66) 40.2 (22) 20.1 (111) 30.2 (152) 18.2 (23) 20 (22) 51.6 (137) 91.7 (238) 3.2 (213) 14.7 (16)
*- Numbers from 2019-2020 Season
NCAA Basketball: Stanford at Oregon
Will Richardson is the Ducks best returning scorer, but will have a lot of weight to carry with the loss of Peyton Pritchard and Anthony Mathis.
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Where does Oregon turn for offense?

Oregon was the country’s second-best team from deep in 2019-2020, but lost its two best shooters to graduation. Will Richardson had the best percentage on last year’s team (46.9 percent), but only shot 81 from deep, while Chris Duarte only hit at a 33.6 clip in 140 attempts. No doubt there are others who can contribute, and Richardson is primed to become the first option. The addition of multiple double-digit scorers from the transfer market — Hardy, Omoruyi, Williams — will ease the bulk of the lost points. Those pieces may need time to gel on the floor though. However you slice it, the loss of Payton Pritchard and Anthony Mathis will be felt.

However, Oregon could easily shift its production to the front court. N’Faly Dante and Chandler Lawson both saw contributing minutes as true freshmen and were above average players on offense. Dante specifically was a typically efficient big down from close range, and both players showed an early propensity for the offensive glass. Missouri was able to throttle the Golden Eagles on the boards due to their superior size, but won’t have as much luck against the Ducks. If the Tigers can win the expected rebounding battle and prevent any outbursts from three-point range, they’ll have a good shot at taking home a Tier A win.

KenPom predicts...

Oregon 71, Missouri 67 | Missouri’s win probability sits at 38 percent, which is probably about right for this type of match up. The Tigers will have benefited from getting a trial run in against Oral Roberts, while Oregon has sort of floated around the margins waiting for their first opportunity to play. Dana Altman’s teams have been inconsistent in non-conference play before, so this represents one of Missouri’s best opportunities at picking off a Top 25 opponent. Still, Oregon is deep and talented, and the Tigers won’t have much margin for error in only their second showing of the year.

A win here would be a boon to Missouri’s resume right off the bat and send them soaring into Wichita, while a loss wouldn’t put too much of a damper on their tournament chances early.