For most of the season, the Oregon Ducks have been without starting forward/center Nate Bittle. Bittle injured his wrist against Tennessee State on November 17th and hasn’t returned since, although Ducks’ head coach Dana Altman said last week that a return for Bittle is close.
This week, on Wednesday, Altman provided another update on Bittle’s progress and whether or not he could return this week in one of Oregon’s home games against Arizona State or Arizona.
“I think so. He didn’t feel comfortable last Sunday, but he practiced hard today,” Altman said. “So we’ll see how it feels tomorrow. And I won’t make any promises, but if he gets through tomorrow and gets through shoot around and he feels okay. I’d sure like to play him.”
And Ducks fans would sure like to see him play. In 2022, Bittle averaged 7.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, while also playing strong defense — something Oregon needs. The re-addition of Bittle into the starting lineup would also make the opposing teams less likely to double-team N’Faly Dante, because it would leave a wide-open Bittle under the basket for a free bucket.
Regardless of when Bittle returns, he, like Dante, will be gradually reintroduced to the lineup. Altman did point out last week, that Bittle’s conditioning hasn’t taken as much of a hit as Dante’s because Bittle had an upper-body injury and could run during his recovery, while Dante had a leg injury and couldn’t.
In his first few games back, I expect Bittle to come off the bench and give the Ducks good minutes on both ends of the floor. After that, it will all depend on who is producing the most. Dante has the starting center spot secured, and Bittle will have competition at power forward with freshman Kwame Evans Jr., who has had a strong start to his Oregon career.