Dylan Ennis

Former Villanova guard headed to Oregon for final season

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One of the top remaining players on the graduate student market has picked his next school. Dylan Ennis, a key contributor at Villanova in each of the last two seasons, has decided that he’ll use his final season of eligibility at Oregon as first reported by Scout.com.

Ennis, who will be eligible to play immediately for the Ducks, picked the Pac-12 school over Baylor and Illinois.

Ennis started all 36 games for the Big East champions in 2014-15, averaging 9.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 28.1 minutes per game. Prior to this two seasons at Villanova, Ennis played his freshman season at Rice before deciding to transfer. As a graduate student who sat out the 2012-13 season per NCAA transfer rules, Ennis will be eligible to play immediately for Dana Altman’s Ducks.

Oregon, which won 26 games and reached the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament last season, has some young talent back on the perimeter but has to account for the loss of Pac-12 Player of the Year Joseph Young. Young was key for the Ducks as both a scorer and distributor, averaging 20.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game, and Ennis can help Oregon account for Young’s departure.

Ennis joins a backcourt that will include rising sophomores Casey Benson and Ahmaad Rorie and incoming freshmen Tyler Dorsey and Kendall Small. In transferring from Villanova, Ennis expressed a desire to spend more time on the basketball, and with Oregon’s youth on the perimeter he should get the opportunity to do so.

Report: Former Villanova guard Dylan Ennis cuts list to three

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At this time of year guards with a combination of Division I experience and immediate eligibility become incredibly popular prospects, and that’s been the case for former Villanova guard Dylan Ennis. Due to graduate this spring Ennis, who was a solid contributor on a team that won the Big East regular season and tournament titles, will be able to play immediately in 2015-16.

Wednesday evening it was reported by ESPN.com that Ennis has trimmed his list of possible schools to three: Baylor, Illinois and Oregon and is looking to make visits next week. In announcing his decision to leave Villanova, one of Ennis’ desires was to land at a school where he’d get the opportunity to spend the majority of his time on the ball as opposed to playing off of it.

In the case of Baylor, the Bears return rising seniors Lester Medford and Austin Mills with the latter playing sparingly last season and Miami transfer Manu Lecomte will have to sit out the 2015-16 season per NCAA transfer rules. As for Illinois, the Fighting Illini return Tracy Abrams (who missed all of last year with a torn ACL), Jaylon Tate and Kendrick Nunn as players who can handle the basketball.

Oregon has the youngest rotation when it comes to available ball-handling options, with Casey Benson and Ahmaad Rories being sophomores and Kendall Small and Tyler Dorsey (who will see most of his time at the two) being freshmen.

Duke among list of candidates for graduate transfer guard

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Villanova transfer guard Dylan Ennis has narrowed his list of potential destinations to eight with national champion Duke making the cut.

Jeff Goodman of ESPN first reported the remaining candidates: Baylor, Duke, Georgia Tech, Illinois, LSU, Oregon, Purdue and Tennessee. Ennis, who began his career at Rice, announced earlier this month that he would transfer from Villanova after graduating this spring. He is eligible to play next season.

The Blue Devils are obviously the most intriguing team on the list. Aside from being the reigning national champion, Duke is heading into the 2015-16 season without a point guard on the roster. Tyus Jones, the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, declared for the 2015 NBA Draft on Wednesday. Duke and Louisville are both in pursuit of 2016 point guard Derryck Thornton, attempting to convince the five-star recruit to reclassify to the Class of 2015.

Ennis’ reason for transferring was the desire to play point guard in a full-time role, something that wasn’t going to change with Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson in the back court for the Wildcats next season.

Baylor and Oregon, like Duke, were slotted in College Basketball Talk‘s Way-Too-Early Top 25 rankings. Baylor will be without the services of point guard Kenny Chery while Oregon will have several scoring options despite Joseph Young graduating. LSU and Purdue were also considered for the early rankings with the Tigers bringing in freshmen Ben Simmons and Antonio Blakeney. The Boilermakers tapped into the graduate transfer market last fall to get Jon Octeus.

Ennis averaged 9.9 points, 3.7 boards and 3.5 assists per game as a junior.

No. 1 Villanova blows out No. 16 Lafayette in tournament opener

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After winning the Big East regular season and tournament titles, No. 1 Villanova entered this week with hopes of building on their success with a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Jay Wright’s team got things going Thursday night, and the top seed in the East Region had little trouble with No. 16 Lafayette in Pittsburgh.

Dylan Ennis led six Wildcats in double figures with 16 points as the Wildcats won by the final score of 93-52. As a team Villanova shot better than 63 percent from the field and 11-for-22 from beyond the arc, and they never allowed the Patriot League champions to develop the confidence needed to hang around.

Defensively Villanova limited Lafayette, a good three-point shooting team, to 4-for-18 from beyond the arc. The Leopards needed a spectacular night from deep to have any chance of hanging around, and Villanova made sure that didn’t occur.

Dan Trist led the way for the Leopards, who won their conference tournament despite being the four-seed, with 18 points and six rebounds. The two schools share a connection to Fran O’Hanlon, as the Lafayette head coach is also a Villanova alum and a member of that school’s athletic hall of fame.

Next up for Villanova is a much tougher test in either No. 8 NC State or No. 9 LSU. Both teams have multiple interior options, which could be an issue for the Wildcats given their lack of depth in the post. But balance on both ends of the floor have led to Villanova winning 33 games this season, and that will be the key for them moving forward.

The top 15 most improved players in college basketball

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Ty Wallace (AP Photo)

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Ty Wallace, Cal: I’m firmly entrenched on the Ty Wallace bandwagon, having said repeatedly that there is no player in the country as underrated as Cal’s star point guard. Look at this stat line: 19.3 points, 8.8 boards, 4.2 assists and 46.9 percent shooting from three.

Justin Anderson, Virginia: Anderson’s emergence into Virginia’s leading scorer has been the biggest surprise of the season for me. Always known as a great athlete and teammate, Anderson is now averaging 15.1 points and shooting 60.0 percent from three. He’s not a go-to guy, but he’s been Tony Bennett’s most valuable weapon thus far.

Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: Cauley-Stein is starting to live up to his potential this season, becoming the nation’s most versatile defender while anchoring on college basketball’s best defense. A 7-foot-1 center, he can switch ball-screens and has been tasked with stopping an opponent’s best wing scorer at times this season.

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Robert Upshaw (Getty Images)

Robert Upshaw, Washington: Washington’s emergence as a top three team in the Pac-12 can almost entirely be credited to Upshaw, who has become the nation’s premiere shot-blocking presence. He’s averaging 4.6 blocks in just 20 minutes and has completely changed the way that Washington is able to defend. I’d argue he’s one of the ten most valuable players in the country right now.

Christian Wood, UNLV: Wood is playing like a first round draft pick, averaging 13.9 points, 9.6 boards and 3.0 blocks for the Rebels. He had 24 points and 10 boards in UNLV’s win over No. 3 Arizona on Tuesday night.

Terry Rozier, Louisville: Rozier has done much of what was expected of him this season. His scoring is up to 16.5 points from 7.0 as a freshman, and while he’s not shooting quite as well from the perimeter this season, his percentages are up overhaul and he’s turned into one of the nation’s best, and most important, secondary options.

Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse: Someone had to become a scorer for Syracuse this season, and thus far in the year it’s been the senior big man that’s done it. He’s averaging 16.5 points and 8.7 boards, a bright spot in an otherwise frustrating season for the Orange.

Zach Auguste, Notre Dame: Auguste has always had the potential to be a big-time scorer in the paint for the Irish, and he’s finally reaching it this year. Auguste’s averaging 14.8 points through the first month, although it will be interesting to see what happens when the Irish start to play some tougher competition.

Levi Randolph, Alabama: Randolph has become a go-to guy for Alabama as a senior, as he’s now posting some impressive numbers: 16.5 points, 4.9 boards and 3.1 assists for the 8-3 Tide.

Dylan Ennis, Villanova: Who saw this coming from Ennis? He’s Villanova’s leading scorer, their most dangerous three-point shooter and one of the best defenders on the roster.

Stefan Nastic, Stanford: With so much of Stanford’s front line graduating, Nastic’s role has been dramatically increased this year, and it’s paying off. Nastic is averaging 14.5 points and has become one of the better low-post scorers on the west coast.

Justin Moss, Buffalo: As a sophomore, Moss averaged 3.8 points and 3.2 boards playing behind Javon McCrea. As a junior, those numbers have bumped up to 17.3 points and 10.2 boards. Oh, and he did this.

Malcolm Hill, Illinois: Hill started a handful of games as a freshman, but as a sophomore he’s moved into a major role for John Groce. His scoring has bumped up to 12.8 points this year, as the Illini look like they could contend for a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Damian Jones, Vanderbilt: Jones has developed into the star we expected him to be as a sophomore, averaging 16.5 points and 7.1 boards.

Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: The Spartans have been a disappointment through the season’s first month, but Valentine has been terrific. These numbers are nothing to joke about: 14.5 points, 5.5 boards, 4.3 assists, 50.0 percent from three.

The ten biggest surprises in college basketball in 2014-2015

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 MORE: The rest of our New Year’s Resolutions | Midseason catchups

Washington: No one saw this coming from Washington this season. Through the season’s first month, the Huskies remain one of just eight undefeated teams left in the country, having won the Wooden Legacy tournament in California, beaten San Diego State at home and knocked off Oklahoma in a showcase in Las Vegas. Nigel Williams-Goss and Andrew Andrews have been terrific, but the real difference-maker this season has been Robert Upshaw. A seven-foot transfer from Fresno State, Upshaw’s ability to block shots — he’s averaging 4.6 blocks in just 20 minutes — has changed the way U-Dub can defend.

St. John’s: I have no problem sitting here and telling you that I’m not sold on St. John’s yet this season. Maybe it’s because they seemingly are coming-from-behind in the second half of every game. Maybe it’s because I don’t trust D’angelo Harrison and Rysheed Jordan in the back court. Maybe I’m too used to Steve Lavin teams disappointing me.

But none of that matter right now.

The Johnnies are 10-1 on the season — the only loss coming to Gonzaga — and playing the nation’s fourth-best defense, according to Kenpom. They’ve won at Syracuse, they’ve beaten Minnesota and St. Mary’s, they’re a top 25 team on Kenpom. Let’s see if it holds.

West Virginia: I really didn’t expect much from the Mountaineers this season, even with Juwan Staten on the roster. No one did, not in a loaded Big 12 conference. But at this point in the season, the Mountaineers have just a one point loss to LSU on their resume and wins over UConn, N.C. State and Wofford. Their full court pressure has been a game-changer, and there’s a chance this team could end up finishing top five in the Big 12.

Kentucky: The fact that Kentucky is No. 1 in the country isn’t surprising. The fact that they are still undefeated, or that there is speculation they will go undefeated this season, is not all that surprising, either. What is surprising, however, is just how well this team has bought into the idea of sharing minutes, and just how dominant that’s allowed them to be. Who had the Wildcats beating Kansas, UCLA and Texas by a combined 83 points?

Maryland: Mark Turgeon is too good of a coach to have a team stay down forever, and while the Terps made a name for themselves when they beat Iowa State early this season, did anyone think they would survive the loss of Dez Wells unscathed? Maryland just won at Oklahoma State, has only lost to Virginia this season and will be getting Wells back by the time Big 10 play starts.

Justin Anderson: Anderson has always been known as a terrific athlete, teammate and defender. This season, however, he’s turned into Virginia’s leading scorer, a prototypical three-and-D wing that is shooting 60.0 percent (!!!) from beyond the arc.

Old Dominion: We can’t ignore what Jeff Jones has done with this Monarch team this season. They’ve beaten LSU, Richmond, VCU and Georgia State already this season and look like they’ll be a favorite Conference USA. This comes two years after they won just five games.

Dylan Ennis: The leading scorer on the best team in the Big East this season is also one of the most unexpected, as Dylan Ennis has turned into a star for Villanova this season. He’s their best shooter, one of their best creators and a terrific defender.

Baylor: The Bears are another one of those teams that I can’t figure out, but there’s not denying their record and who they’ve beaten. Baylor is 10-1 on the season with wins over South Carolina, Stephen F. Austin, Memphis, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M. They kick off Big 12 play on January 3rd against Oklahoma. We’ll see they do in league play.

Big East: The conference, as a whole, has come back down to earth a little bit over the last couple of weeks, but that doesn’t change the fact that the league appears to be much stronger from top to bottom than anyone predicted. Villanova is still the class of the league, but St. John’s and Georgetown both look like they could make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. Butler, Creighton, Xavier, Providence and Seton Hall all put themselves in a spot when an NCAA tournament bid is possible. Marquette looks much better now that Luke Fischer is in the mix. And even DePaul did something good, beating Stanford by 15 points earlier this year.