Observations: Despite loss of Dylan Ennis, Ducks still a Pac-12 contender

Oregon will still compete for a Pac-12 regular season title without Dylan Ennis

Dana Altman has been a master of mixing and matching different lineups over the past few seasons in Eugene and with the news the Ducks got on Wednesday it appears that this year will be no different.

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Oregon received word Wednesday that Ennis, a transfer from Villanova, will miss the rest of the season due to a foot injury and while that initially may take some air out of the Ducks’ balloon it shouldn’t completely deflate their cause.

Altman has always had a way of getting the maximum out of whatever he has and this year will be no different.

The Ducks didn’t have Ennis, who sources said will apply for a sixth season of eligibility, out of the gate this season and found a steady point guard in Casey Benson who didn’t commit a single turnover in last night’s win over Cal.

With Benson and Tyler Dorsey anchoring the back court, look for Altman to use longer lineups in an effort to disrupt the opponent featuring long stretches with Dillon Brooks, Dwayne Benjamin, Elgin Cook, Chris Boucher, and Jordan Bell occupying four of the five spots on the floor.

Oregon isn’t going have the same depth and perimeter explosiveness it potentially would have had with Ennis, who only played in two games this season, in the lineup, but that doesn’t mean it’s still not going to contend at the top of the Pac-12.

The Ducks are 12-3 overall and 1-1 in Pac-12 play.

Clemson is in position to make a jump in 2016-17: The Tigers have brought Iowa State’s model to the ACC and should be in position to compete for a bid to the NCAA Tournament in 2017 thanks to an influx of three transfers.

Shelton Mitchell (Vanderbilt), Marcquise Reed (Robert Morris) and Elijah Thomas (Texas A&M) are all starting caliber players who are sitting out this season, but will be eligible starting next year.

The 6-foot-9 Thomas — who committed to Clemson on Wednesday — figures to be a major focal point for this team while Reed (15.1 points last season) could wind up leading the Tigers in scoring.

Add a strong returning core of Avry Holmes, Donte Grantham, and Jaron Blossomgame as well as Brad Browell’s ability to X and O and Clemson should have a real chance to finish in the top half of the ACC next season.

Another important to remember about the Tigers?

They will return to their on-campus arena next season which will be fully renovated after playing this season in Greenville which is about 45 minutes away from campus.

That should make a huge difference in low-possession games during conference play.

Cincinnati has a golden opportunity against SMU: The Bearcats looked in vintage form last Saturday when they held Tulsa to 57 points and beat the Golden Hurricane to nearly every 50-50 ball.

Mick Cronin’s team has come close to earning quality victories against NCAA Tournament caliber teams this season, but has come up just short against both Butler and Iowa State.

Now it has a chance to beat one of the sport’s two remaining undefeated teams on its home floor.

Cincinnati and SMU have quietly developed arguably the American Conference’s best rivalry and the two programs have engaged in several intense games over the past two seasons with the Bearcats winning three out of the four meetings.

Larry Brown’s team can’t play in the postseason, but that doesn’t mean it’s not one of the better teams in the country.

A win by Cincinnati Thursday at Moody Coliseum would move the needle in terms of the Bearcats’ potential NCAA resume and that’s something they’ve yet to do so far this season.

This Just In

  • USC’s Julian Jacobs (ankle) will be a game-time decision for Thursday’s game against Arizona State, Trojans coach Andy Enfield told CBS Sports.
  • Illinois guard Khalid Lewis (mumps) will play Thursday at Michigan State, John Groce told CBS Sports. Lewis has missed the last two games.

Dylan Ennis (USATSI)
Oregon’s Dylan Ennis, a Villanova transfer, will sit out the rest of this season. (USATSI)

This and That

  • UCLA needs to be stout defensively Thursday if it’s going to have a chance to beat Arizona at Pauley Pavilion. In six games this season against opponents from power-five conferences the Bruins are giving up an average of 86.5 points — that’s not going to cut it against the Wildcats. Steve Alford’s team is 9-6 overall and 0-2 in Pac-12 play.
  • One interesting under-the-radar nugget from Kansas’ triple overtime win over Oklahoma on Monday night: Bill Self opted to use Landen Lucas up front down the stretch over both Hunter Mickelson and Jamari Traylor. The 6-10 Lucas responded and had eight big rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench.
  • Iowa’s Mike Gesell has come out strong during the Hawkeyes’ first three Big Ten games. The senior point guard is averaging 18.0 points and 6.7 assists in league play thus far and has gotten to the free throw line 30 times in three games. Fran McCaffery’s team is 12-3 overall and next travels to Michigan State on Jan. 14.
  • Vanderbilt officially looks like the most disappointing team thus far in college basketball. The Dores entered the season with hope of competing for an SEC title, but now are just 8-6 overall after Tuesday night’s loss at Arkansas. Kevin Stallings’ squad next travels to undefeated South Carolina on Saturday.
  • David Crisp is the unsung presence in Washington’s deep freshman class. The 6-foot guard didn’t arrive in Seattle with the same type of hype as Dejounte Murray, Noah Dickerson, and Marquese Chriss, but he’s quietly proving his worth. Crisp is averaging 10.7 points and 3.1 rebounds for the 10-4 Huskies and has made several big 3-point shots in key situations. Crisp isn’t a lights out shooter (35.8 percent from 3-point range), but he’s unafraid of the big moment and has a fearlessness that extends well beyond his years.
  • Dan Hurley is reiterating that he’s at his best with his back against the wall. Rhode Island has had three starters — E.C. Matthews (out for season), Hassan Martin, and Kuran Iverson — suffer injuries this season and yet still is 10-5 overall and 2-0 in Atlantic 10 play following Tuesday night’s win over Richmond. With Martin and Iverson now back in the fold Hurley has a chance to keep this team in the upper tier of the Atlantic 10. Rhode Island next visits Saint Joseph’s on Saturday.
  • It’s looking more and more like the Mountain West Conference could be a one bid league this season and that bid could come from the winner of the conference tournament. Boise State appears to be the most complete team in this league, but the Broncos’ best win is over Oregon in a game where both Dylan Ennis and Tyler Dorsey didn’t play for the Ducks. It will interesting to see how many bids this league winds up with in the field of 68.
  • You can’t put together a list of the best Glue Guys in college basketball without mentioning Houston’s LeRon Barnes. The 6-5 senior is doing all the little things for the Cougars and has a combined 27 rebounds in his team’s first two conference games. Kelvin Sampson’s team is 13-2 overall and next travels to Cincinnati on Wednesday.
  • Big 12 teams who hoped to pencil in a win when they go to TCU better think again. The Horned Frogs led West Virginia in the second half on Monday night and have a coach in Trent Johnson that has been named coach of the year in three separate conferences (WAC, Pac-12, SEC). Competing in this league is simply a bear.
  • DaJuan Coleman has a combined six points and six rebounds in Syracuse’s first three ACC games. Remember when this guy was supposed be one-and-done?


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