Welcome to hoops season, Pac-12 fans. Yeah, we’ve had seven games this week so far (including a couple featuring Arizona), but let’s face it: tonight is the real opening night. We’ve got 131 games on the docket involving Division I teams, and we’ve got seven Pac-12 teams in action (Oregon State and Washington hold their openers on Saturday evening, while Washington State and Utah will wait until Monday to get going). And while fans of each team will be interested to see exactly how their teams look in their first official competition, the one Pac-12 game tonight that should have fans around the country interested is Oregon’s trip to Nashville to face the #7 in the latest RTC poll, Vanderbilt. And while the basketball matchup with the Commodores may only serve as prelude to the main event for most Duck fans this weekend, for us hoops junkies, this is every bit as worthwhile.
While Oregon head coach Dana Altman was hoping to put together a solid schedule this season, opening the year on the road in one of the tougher places in the country to play, Memorial Gymnasium, was not necessarily the goal. But a road game with Auburn fell through in August and Oregon had to scrape around to find a replacement, eventually landing on Vandy (the ‘Dores will return the favor with a trip to Eugene in future years).
For Oregon fans, it is their first look at a remade roster, featuring three newly eligible Division I transfers, four incoming freshmen and one junior college transfer to pair with the six returnees from last year’s CBI championship team. While one of those transfers, point guard Devoe Joseph, won’t be eligible until the middle of December, 6’7” senior forward Olu Ashaolu and 6’11” junior center Tony Woods should play big minutes right away and give Altman an element of size up front that was missing last year. And, given that Vanderbilt’s starting center Festus Ezeli is out for this game with a knee injury (he would have missed the game even without the injury due to an NCAA suspension for receiving improper benefits), that could be a strength for the Ducks. Read the rest of this entry »