Break out the plain white dress shirt and a tie - it's time for Oregon basketball. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-US PRESSWIRE

2012 Oregon Ducks Men's Basketball Preview

Oregon tied for second place with California last year in the Pac-12 with the identical record of 13-5 in conference and 24-10 overall. With how awful the conference RPI along with national respect, even that high of a finish was just rewarded with a trip to the NIT. After defeating LSU and Iowa in the first couple rounds, they eventually lost to Washington who finished first in the regular season.

E.J. Singler will be a key returner to help team chemistry and be one of the team’s leaders. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Yes, when your first-place team in the conference isn’t even invited to the big dance, one wonders how big the expectations are this season for Oregon and the conference overall. Recruiting and talent level has obviously improved, but with it still being wide open, the Ducks have to take advantage and try to finish at the top of the Pac-12.

Who’s Gone: Jeremy Jacob, Garrett Sim, Tyrone Nared, Devoe Joseph, Olu Ashaolu, Chris Larson, Brett Kingma

Who’s Back: Tony Woods, E.J. Singler, Carlos Emory, Nicholas Lucenti, Johnathan Loyd, Austin Kuemper

Who’s New: Arsalen Kazemi, Coleton Baker, Waverly Austin, Dominic Artis, Arik Armstead, Fred Richardson III, Willie Moore, Damyean Dotson, Ben Carter

Four different teams received first-place votes in the preseason poll. Oregon finished in seventh place, solidifying the position under Colorado and ahead of Oregon State. Washington, who did receive a couple first-place votes, still finished in fifth place.

It’s hard to tell who Dana Altman will have in the starting lineup. There’s plenty of new faces with multiple transfers and freshman coming in this season. Looking at the two exhibition games the team played earlier this year, we’d expect center Tony Woods, forward E.J. Singler, freshman guard Dominic Artis to be in the starting lineup.

Singler played and started in all 34 games last season and led the team with 189 rebounds and shoots 90.9 percent from the free throw line. He also returns as the leading shooter from the three-point line (36.8 percent). Woods missed just one game last season and is the only true center on the team outside of redshirt freshman Austin Kuemper.

Artis is obviously the biggest recruit of the freshman class and dominated in the first two exhibition games. He went 11-19 shooting (6-9 from the perimeter) and 4-8 from the charity stripe for 32 points in 47 minutes of action. He also had six assists and five steals.

Whether the Ducks utilize one or two forwards for most of the season depends on whether or not they can get a waiver for transfer Arsalan Kazemi. He averages a double-double of 12.6 points and 10.1 rebounds in his three-year career at Rice. Obviously, he would size to a team that’s guard-heavy at the moment.

Don’t expect a clear starting lineup at the beginning of the year. Altman will likely re-tool and some lineups may not work out as the coaching staff learns who plays well with another.

Oregon is in for an interesting test early in the season with a tournament in Las Vegas against Cincinnati, Iowa State, and hosts UNLV. Then most of December provides some tune-up games to get the team ready for the conference season. Here’s an extended look at the upcoming schedule. Also take a look at the full schedule here.

Brian Spaen is the lead editor for Autzen Zoo. See his banter with other FanSided writers and love for his favorite west coast professional teams by following him on Twitter.

Read his other work on the Iowa State blog, Clones Confidential, and Lacrosse the Web.

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Tags: Arsalan Kazemi Basketball Dominic Artis Oregon Ducks Tony Woods

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