The Oregon Ducks were the favorites to win the Pac-12 even before Thursday’s breaking news.
With point guard Dylan Ennis being granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, Dana Altman’s squad has the depth, talent and experience that should confirm that status atop the Pac-12
The former Villanova guard played in just two games last season (21 minutes and two points) due to a broken foot, but was always on the bench cheering on his teammates and working with the younger players.
Even though Ennis has never averaged double digits points in his career, he is an effective scorer, is smart with the ball in his hands, has valuable experience and can play numerous positions.
In his two seasons with Villanova (he played one year at Rice), the Brampton, ON native averaged 7.5 points, 2.6 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game.
Ennis had a career year during his junior campaign where he averaged 9.9 points per game, shot 42 percent from the field, and drilled 36 percent from beyond the arc.
Meanwhile, the Ducks have an intriguing core set up for the 2016-17 season. Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey, Chris Boucher, Ennis, Jordan Bell, Casey Benson, Kendall Small and Roman Sorkin all return from a team that made the Elite Eight in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, while the squad is only losing seniors Dwayne Benjamin and Elgin Cook.
And don’t forget about a solid freshman class. Oregon adds four-star sharp shooter Payton Pritchard, three-star small forward Keith Smart, three-star center Michael Cage Jr. and one of the best JUCO prospects in the country in Kavell Bigby-Williams.
Keeping Ennis in the fold not only gives the Ducks a quality leader and a player who has been through the gauntlet of college basketball, but it provides the team with more versatility. They can play with three-guards, can play small ball with Brooks at the four, and can switch ball handling duties between Benson, Dorsey, Pritchard and Ennis.
What does this all mean in the big picture?
Oregon has a legit chance to make their first Final Four since they won their only championship in 1939. The Ducks came so close to reaching Houston this year (they lost to Oklahoma), but with the experience they bring back in Eugene, this team will not only be the most dangerous unit in the Pac-12, but likely a top-7 team in the country.
So buckle up, Arizona and UCLA are in for some stiff tests in the Pac-12, while teams like Villanova, Kentucky and Duke cannot overlook the power of the Ducks.