Observations: With key transfer set to make debut, Oregon on right track

Oregon is the team to watch in the Pac-12.

The Ducks enter Tuesday’s game against Western Oregon with a 10-2 record and they’ve yet to have their most important newcomer — Dylan Ennis (9.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists last season) — available due to a foot injury.

The graduate transfer from Villanova was Oregon’s primary recruiting target last spring and his return to the lineup this week will finally put Dana Altman’s team in position to have its full arsenal ready for the beginning of Pac-12 play.

Arizona, Cal, UCLA, and Utah have all gotten a large amount of ink when people have talked about the elite teams in this conference, but it would be foolish to sleep on Oregon.

The Ducks are one of college basketball’s most balanced teams and currently have six players averaging between 9.8 and 16.5 points.

Add Ennis to the fold and you’ve got a bevy of options that can be the assassin on any given night.

Oregon has been to three straight NCAA Tournaments under Altman’s watch and it says here that this squad has the potential to be his best yet.

Not many programs in America could have gotten off to the start this team has without its projected starting floor general (Ennis) for 12 games, its projected starting center (Jordan Bell) for eight games, and its starting two-guard (Tyler Dorsey) for two games.

Iowa can make a statement Tuesday against Michigan State: This isn’t a must win for the Hawkeyes, but it’s a pretty important Big Ten opener for a number of reasons.

Tom Izzo has won 14 of his last 15 games against Iowa and even though the Spartans won’t have Denzel Valentine (knee) available they’re still coming to Iowa City, Iowa with the intentions of punching the Hawkeyes directly in the mouth. Fran McCaffery’s team let a major opportunity for a resume win slip through its fingers a weeks ago when it blew a significant lead and lost by a point against Iowa State at Hilton Coliseum.

A road win over the Cyclones would have been huge for Iowa’s NCAA resume down the line even though this team has already beaten Marquette at Marquette while also posting victories against both Florida State and Wichita State.

Another reason why this game Tuesday is huge for the Hawkeyes?

If they lose it could put them in danger of digging an early hole in Big Ten play.

After Tuesday’s game against Michigan State, Iowa travels to Purdue then returns home to play Nebraska before heading to East Lansing, Michigan to do battle with the Spartans for the second time in nearly two weeks.

A loss Tuesday and a 1-3 start in conference play seems like a very realistic possibility for the Hawkeyes.

Shaka Smart may decide it’s time to turn Tevin Mack loose: Texas suffered some really bad news on Monday when starting center Cameron Ridley was ruled out indefinitely due to a fractured left foot.

The 6-9 big man having a career season (12.7 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.4 blocks) for the Longhorns and his departure may now allow Shaka Smart to shift his style of play back to the way it was when he coached at VCU.

Conner Lammert is cemented as Texas’ starting power forward, but don’t be surprised if Smart uses 6-6 freshman Tevin Mack as well for long stretches at the four.

Smart has always been an advocate of putting his best players on the floor and without Ridley anchoring the middle, the door may be open for Mack to play longer minutes up front since other post players like Prince Ibeh and Shaquille Cleare have only had a minimal impact thus far.

A former Top-50 recruit, Mack has yet to hit his stride through the first six weeks of the season, but is coming off a seven-point, three-rebound performance in a recent win over Stanford.

The Longhorns (8-3) host UConn on Tuesday in Austin, Texas.

This Just In

  • Colorado’s Xavier Johnson (achilles) will meet with the Buffaloes’ staff this week to decide if he will redshirt this season, coach Tad Boyle told CBS Sports. Johnson has yet to play this season.

Dylan Ennis (USATSI)
Villanova transfer Dylan Ennis is set to make his Oregon debut. (USATSI)

This and That

  • Ohio State has won four straight games and will take an 8-5 record into Big Ten play. It’s too early to determine how the Buckeyes are going to fare in their own conference, but this much seems obvious: this is a more cohesive team when freshman point guard A.J. Harris on the floor. The 5-9 floor general has a combined 11 assists to just five turnovers over his last five games and could allow Thad Matta to move JaQuan Lyle off the ball in spurts.
  • Only one player on Memphis’ roster — Avery Woodson — is shooting better than 30.0 percent from 3-point range. The Tigers are shooting just 28.7 percent from long distance as a team. This is an interior based squad thanks to the power forward/center combo of Dedric Johnson and Shaq Goodwin. Josh Pastner’s squad is 8-3 overall and begins conference play today at home against Tulane.
  • Northwestern’s Bryant McIntosh may wind up being for the Wildcats what Aaron Craft was for Ohio State — a four-year face of the program at point guard. The sophomore floor general is averaging 16.8 points and 6.8 assists while shooting an impressive 47.2 percent from three-point range. Northwestern is 12-1 overall.
  • Duane Wilson is flourishing in the “Vinnie Johnson” type role off the bench for Marquette. The redshirt sophomore brings the Golden Eagles experience and explosiveness in reserve all while providing much needed offense. Wilson is averaging 12.6 points for Marquette (10-2).
  • Miami’s Ivan Cruz Uceda has already made as many 3-point shots (21) as he did during all of last season. The 6-10 big man completely changed his body during the off season and is shooting 53.8 percent from long distance this year after shooting 33.9 percent a season ago. Cruz Uceda is averaging 7.9 points and 3.8 rebounds for the 10-1 Hurricanes, who host Princeton on Tuesday in Coral Gables, Florida.
  • Here’s an interesting nugget on Michigan: the Wolverines’ top three rebounders are Caris LeVert (5.4), Derrick Walton (4.7), and Zak Irvin (3.6) — all perimeter based players. John Beilein’s squad (10-3) needs more out of guys like Ricky Doyle, Mark Donnal, and D.J. Wilson on the boards.
  • NC State’s Abdul Malik-Abu has grabbed no less than nine rebounds in three of his last five games and is starting to play like an All-ACC player. The 6-8 sophomore is averaging 11.1 points and 7.8 rebounds for the 9-3 Wolfpack, who host a dangerous Northeastern team Tuesday in Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • Clemson’s first nine ACC games are the following: at North Carolina, Florida State, at Syracuse, Louisville, Duke, Miami, at Virginia, Pitt, at Florida State. That’s beyond brutal — especially when the Tigers (7-5) are playing their home games 45 minutes away from campus in Greenville.
  • Buzz Williams’ rebuilding project at Virginia Tech may not really hit its stride until the 2016-17 season. The Hokies suffered another setback over the weekend when freshman forward Chris Clarke (10.5 points, 7.4) was lost indefinitely to a foot injury. Add that to the fact that this team’s best perimeter defender Ahmed Hill has yet to play due to a patella issue and it seems more than likely that Virginia Tech (8-4) will again struggle since it’s essentially playing without two starting caliber players.
  • Illinois freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands is starting to emerge as a potential third scorer behind Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn. The talented guard is averaging 13.3 points in his last three games while shooting 50.0 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from 3-point range. This is a big-time offensive talent. The Illini are 8-5 overall and begin Big Ten play Wednesday at home against Michigan.

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