Opening Tip Wednesday In Omaha
Initially, the Oregon men's basketball was planning to open the season a week ago against Eastern Washington. Then, the plan was to play an opener over the weekend against Portland State.
The best-laid plans often go awry. And never more so than in 2020.
Instead, the Ducks will play their opener Wednesday, against Missouri in a game hosted by UO coach Dana Altman's former program, Creighton. The UO men will remain in Nebraska and play Seton Hall on Friday, also at the CHI Health Center in Omaha.
Wednesday's game against Missouri tips off at 6:05 p.m. PT and will be televised by FS1.
For Altman's Ducks, tipping off the season will be a welcome end to this most unusual offseason. The defending Pac-12 regular-season champions were denied a chance to win their conference tournament last spring, or to see what kind of run Pac-12 player of the year Payton Pritchard could lead them on in the NCAA Tournament.
Then, not only was the end of the 2019-20 season canceled due to the pandemic, but the 2020-21 campaign got off to two false starts in the last few days.
"It's been a crazy week," Altman said. "… The guys wanted to play. So it's been a tough week for them."
Instead of playing a game last Wednesday, the Ducks practiced. The disappointment of having their opener canceled was reflected in the effort that day, Altman said. Friday's practice also was "not very good," with a potential Portland State game also scratched.
"And I understand that," Altman said. "But I did emphasize to them all along, this is the kind of year it's going to be — things out of our control."
It's been a decade since Oregon and Missouri played each other, but the Ducks faced Seton Hall just last year. That resulted in a two-point UO victory at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.
Shakur Juiston provided the difference on a putback with 13 seconds left, and Pritchard led the Ducks with 16 points. They've since graduated, as has a third UO starter in that game, Anthony Mathis.
Oregon still features prominent familiar faces in guards Chris Duarte and Will Richardson, and forwards Chandler Lawson and N'Faly Dante. Redshirt freshman Lök Wur, an Omaha native, is expected to see his first collegiate minutes in his hometown.
Transfers LJ Figueroa and Aaron Estrada traveled with the team to Nebraska, but neither has been cleared to play while applying for NCAA waivers to be eligible this season.
Altman said Monday the team would have to "wait and see who's ready to go" after some players were banged up in practices over the weekend.
Combine some roster uncertainty with quick turnaround time to prepare for Missouri and Seton Hall, and for the Ducks "it's been a crazy week," Altman said.
But also, he added: "There are no excuses. We're going to be ready."