I don’t know what you were doing in the first hour on Monday morning, but Dana Altman looked like a guy who would wake up, get dressed, let the dog out, mow the lawn, and decide the next thing on her to-do list. to do was, ” Send your luggage to Iowa. “
The seventh-seeded Oregon defeated the No.2 Hawkeyes, 95-80 on Monday.
The Ducks were the better team. Altman was the top coach. The Hawkeyes, touted as a hard-scrabble and defensive Big Ten outfit, looked helpless in the face of the Oregon offense. It was an upheaval. I’m sure the Ducks’ win burned a few hooks, but for the rest of us the result was as surprising as the mail appearing.
Altman said afterwards, “I don’t think we’ve ever scored 95 points. “
So this is it. Yet in 11 seasons at Eugene, the Ducks have now moved to Sweet 16 five times. Twice, Altman went on to reach the Elite Eight. It also has a Final Four. Which just means the Oregon coach is going to have to win a few more games before either of us falls in disbelief and thinks this tournament has lost its marbles.
March is the month of Altman.
Take a tour of the talent. Change locations and years. Blow bubbles, if you wish. It doesn’t really seem that important in the end. What has become certain is that Altman will find a way to put his team in position to succeed in the NCAA tournament. It is especially fatal on short notice, in the face of elimination.
Oregon hadn’t played for 10 days, remember?
The Ducks were supposed to start slow and end up out of rhythm. Altman guarded against that before the tip and told his players, “They played a game. They won’t be tired for the first 10 minutes. We have to go out, move the ball, play for each other, get easy shots and not let them get easy baskets.
Get out and move the ball, check.
Play for each other, check.
Get easy shots and avoid giving up on easy shots – check and verify.
What Iowa struggled with the most was staying with Oregon’s talented and versatile staff. Everyone is talking about Chris Duarte. He is UO’s top player and the program’s spirit animal. But Altman has a stack of talented and interchangeable parts. Its rotations are designed to promote a migraine by shattering opposing defenses and leaving opponents to choose between a range of less than ideal options.
Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffrey said, “Yeah, anyone can bring it. Anyone can go. Everyone makes three. They scatter you.
“It’s a tough team to cover in so many different ways.”
If the Ducks don’t shoot well, they lose. If they shoot correctly, they win. But if they shoot really well, they kick you out of the gym and that’s what happened Monday in Indianapolis. I especially liked that Oregon had 25 assists out of 38 field goals. It has become a clinic.
“We tried man, zone, we tried to squeeze them,” McCaffrey said.
None of this worked. Within minutes of the start of the second half, it became apparent that Iowa’s season was melting away. A few minutes later, it was clear that the Ducks weren’t leaving the bubble and had to think about who was going to do the laundry for the week.
Winning is not boring. I want this to be clear. Altman is simply predictable and professional. It makes success easy. Wins, especially in an NCAA tournament, shouldn’t be taken for granted. But there was something routine and formulaic about the way Altman’s team dismantled their opponent Big Ten and moved forward in this tournament.
March Madness is a magnet for great stories. Sister Jean is back in the parenthesis. Oregon State and Wayne Tinkle are in the Sweet 16 with Oral Roberts, No. 15. The Pac-12 has played extinction. There is so much to see here right now, but let’s not forget the excellence of Dana Altman.
Oregon started again on Monday. The Altman team survived and progressed. They were rusty. Only two players on the list had any real experience of the NCAA tournament. Iowa looked great. Still, Ducks performed as well as anyone on this stage. They won easily and beautifully.
It was the most Dana Altman thing there was.
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