Dana Altman Ready to Dance
Over the weekend, the Oregon Ducks men’s basketball team won the Pac-12 Conference Tournament and saw itself selected as a number 12 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Ducks’ head coach Dana Altman joined the BFT on Monday to discuss the weekend and the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
Right away, Altman was asked if he felt slighted by the NCAA Tournament’s Selection Committee for placing the Ducks as a 12-seed in spite of the Ducks winning the Pac-12 Tournament. Altman acknowledged that while fans and his players were disappointed with the seeding, he was not.
“It doesn’t matter where we’re seeded – it’s just a number,” said Altman. “We’ve got no excuses [and] we’ve got to go play.”
The Ducks will be facing Oklahoma State in their first game of the NCAA Tournament this Thursday in San Jose, California. The Cowboys are led by freshman point guard Marcus Smart, whom Altman was quick to praise in discussing the matchup.
“[Smart] will probably leave after his freshman year and will probably be a lottery pick [in this year’s NBA Draft] – he’s that good,” he said. “[He’s] probably the best point guard we’ll face this year.”
Altman went on to highlight Smart’s athleticism, defensive capability and the physical mismatch he presents for Duck point guards Dominic Artis and Johnathan Loyd (Smart is 6’4” tall while Artis and Loyd are 6’1” and 5’8”, respectively).
As for Artis, the Ducks’ freshman point guard is still working on returning to the level of play he was at prior to an injury that saw him miss almost eight weeks of the season. As a freshman, Altman said that Artis doesn’t have the experience that a junior or senior with the same injury might have, meaning Artis is pushing himself too hard as he gets back on the court.
“[Artis] is putting entirely too much pressure on himself to be the “D.A.” he was when he led us to a 17-2 start,” said Altman. “I’ve got to get him to relax and just play and make a contribution – he doesn’t have to carry the whole team.”
As for the team as a whole, Altman knows there will be some early game jitters – just look at how the team started the final game of the Pac-12 Tournament. However, even though only one player on the team has ever been in the NCAA Tournament before (senior Tony Woods, who transferred from Wake Forest after his sophomore season), Altman says the goal isn’t simply to get to the “Big Dance.”
“You want to get in [to the NCAA Tournament], that’s the first step,” said Altman. “But the second step is to win games.”
The Ducks will have their hands full when they face off against the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Thursday - opening tip is at 1:40pm PT.
To listen to the entire interview, click below: