With four returning starters from a team that finished 31-7 and advanced to the Elite Eight, there were high expectations for the Oregon Ducks entering the 2016-17 season. But Dana Altman’s squad, which hosts Division II Western Oregon on Wednesday night, has puttered to a 5-2 start out of the gate.
The Ducks, who were picked by Sports Illustrated and Lindy’s to win the national championship and opened the season ranked No. 5, lost two of their first three games at Baylor (66-49) and to Georgetown (65-61) in the opening round of the Maui Classic. Preseason All-American forward Dillion Brooks missed those three contests while recuperating from foot surgery but is averaging just 9.8 points off the bench as the Ducks have since struggled to beat teams like Tennessee (69-65 in overtime) and Boise State (68-63). But there is no sense of panic yet in Eugene where the Ducks will play seven of their next eight games with the other contest 110 miles north in Portland against rebuilding UNLV. “I think we are still getting it,” senior guard Dylan Ennis, a transfer from Villanova, said. “Because we were ranked No. 5 to start the season, everyone expected us to be this monster team, and we are still learning what to do. It is a new team with a lot of new guys meshing in. We will get it.”
TV: 10 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
ABOUT WESTERN OREGON (3-3): The Wolves, who reached the Division II Final Four last year, come in off a 78-73 setback to host Dixie State on Saturday in St. George, Utah, their third loss in four games. Ali Faruq-Bey, a 6-foot-2 junior guard who started his career at Idaho State, leads the team in scoring (13.7) while 6-3 junior forward Tanner Omlid, a transfer from Army, averages 12.8 points and a team-best 7.7 rebounds. First-year Western Oregon coach Jim Shaw spent the last two years as an assistant at Saint Mary’s under Randy Bennett and before that spent nine seasons as an assistant for Lorenzo Romar at Washington.
ABOUT OREGON (5-2): Ennis, a gradaute transfer who received a rare sixth-year of eligibility from the NCAA after playing just two games last season because of a broken foot, had a team-high 18 points and six rebounds in helping rally the Ducks back from a 14-point first half deficit against Boise State. He is one of four Ducks averaging in double figures (10.3) along with 6-10 senior forward Chris Boucher (13.7), sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey (11.9) and junior forward Jordan Bell (10.7). The 6-foot-9 Bell leads the team in rebounding (8.1) and has a school-record 167 blocks in just 50 games.
1. The Ducks rank second nationally in blocks per game (8.3) and lead the nation in total blocks (58).
2. Oregon has more turnovers (109) than assists (87) so far this season.
3. Oregon has won 28 straight games at Matthew Knight Arena dating back to a 80-62 loss to Arizona on Jan. 8, 2015.
PREDICTION: Oregon 90, Western Oregon 71