Another year, another Oregon puzzle for Altman to solve

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Oregon loses its leading scorer and two starting guards from its 21-18 squad that won the NIT. Yet, I can’t help but think the Ducks might actually be better in 2011-12.

At the least, they’ll be interesting.

Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph and incoming 5-star prospect Jabari Brown will team with senior Garrett Sim to form a solid backcourt. E.J. Singler’s an underrated forward. And the transfer of Louisiana Tech forward Olu Ashaolu? Well, it’s a team I’ll be interested to see how it all shakes out.

Hey, Ashaolu expects big things. From Justin Young at the National Hoops Report:

“If you would have told me last year that Bulter would have played for the National Championship again this past season, I would have said no. I would have thought Kansas or North Carolina would have been in there,” Ashaolu said. “So you just never know how a team is going to be. I think Oregon is one of those teams that can surprise people.”

Ashaolu chose the Ducks over Texas, San Diego State and Xavier, so it’s not like he’s just some 6-7 chump. He happens to be a guy who averaged 14.2 points and 9.4 rebounds a game last season who has impressive athleticism. (And a love of pancakes.)

New Mexico State assistant coach Paul Weir, who coached against Ashalou and Louisiana Tech twice last season, told Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic that Ashalou will make an instant impact.

“Definitely a Pac-10 player,” Weir said. Very talented, very strong. He’s tough and he has a great motor. I have no doubt he would contribute in the Pac-10, the Big 10, the Big 12, you name it. He’s just a very hard-nosed player.”

Oregon’s got some pieces. Given what coach Dana Altman had to work with in his initial season in Eugene, his second year should be just as interesting..

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