Busting Brackets

Big Ten Basketball: 5 early breakout candidates for 2024-25 season

Iowa v Wisconsin
Iowa v Wisconsin / John Fisher/GettyImages
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Nate Bittle, Oregon

It's officially now or never for Nate Bittle, the former five-star prospect from Prolific Prep in California set to begin his fourth year in Eugene this winter.

Bittle played sparingly as a true freshman back in 2021-22, but improved drastically a year later, averaging 7.3 PPG and 5.1 boards in just over 18 minutes of action. Last season looked like it could be the year he finally puts it together, but instead saw his year derailed by injuries. First there was the wrist injury that required surgery, then the unspecified illness that resulted in him playing just five games total for the NCAA Tournament bound Oregon Ducks.

There was some question whether Bittle may go to the NBA but instead, he returns, and looks to be the starting center now that N'Faly Dante has exhausted his eligibility (although there remains a slim chance Dante could be granted another year of eligibility). The loss of Dante is a major blow for Dana Altman and the Ducks - he will go down as one of the best Oregon bigs in program history. But, Bittle gives them a post presence with a really well-rounded game, who can space the floor when needed or bang down low with his seven-foot, 220-pound frame.

Assuming he's able to stay healthy, I think Bittle has a good chance to rise to the opportunity. He should be back to 100 percent for the new season and in Year 4 with Altman and the Ducks, he knows this program and how to make an impact. And, the move to the Big Ten may be just what Bittle needs to elevate his play, as the Ducks begin a new era in a conference known for elite big men play.