Pac-12 preview: the University of Oregon

This is the eighth in a series previewing the Pac-12 teams

The good news for Oregon is that all four of their starters (they had so many injuries last year that only four had enough starts to be deemed starters) are back this season. More good news: three players who had to redshirt last season also return, and the Ducks are, so far, beginning 2013-2014 healthy. There are four seniors, five juniors, five sophomores and two freshman, which translates into a lot of experience on the court.

The bad news for Oregon is that this is the last year of coach Paul Westhead’s five-year contract, so what few season ticket holders are left will have to sit through yet another year of the failed experiment with the former “run and gun” coach.

Westhead had his day, achieving success at both the college and WNBA levels. But his methods are now outdated and ineffective, and the “University of Nike” didn’t buy out his contract early.

In 2012-2013, the Ducks’ record was a program-low 4-27 (2-16 in the Pac-12). They didn’t get their first win of the year until mid-December. Westhead defenders blamed the injuries that dropped Oregon players like seeming flies. Then towards the middle of the season, some of the athletes were quoted as saying they should be playing harder. If previous coach Bev Smith seemed like a wet blanket, Westhead looks like a soggy one. His record at Oregon is 50-75.

Sophomore forward Jillian Alleyne (13.0 ppg, 11.9 rpg) is a bright spot for the Ducks. She played in 31 games last year, as did senior forward Danielle Love (7.3 ppg) and junior guard Jordan Loera (6.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg). So is redshirt sophomore guard Lexi Petersen, who was a force to be reckoned with her freshman year, and began the same way last season before being injured.

Senior guard Ariel Thomas (10.6 ppg) and junior guard Amanda Delgado (8.5 ppg) are back, as is redshirt senior guard Laura Stanulis (8.2 ppg) and junior forward Liz Brenner 7.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg).

If the Ducks can stay healthy, use all the players regularly that are available (something that didn’t happen last year), and find a way to motivate themselves, it could be a decent season for them. If the year turns into another losing effort and/or catastrophe, then Westhead’s tenure can’t be over soon enough.

Oregon’s major preconference opponents are Connecticut, Princeton, Cal Poly and Cal State Northridge. They open Pac-12 play Jan. 3, at Stanford.