Ducks are fine with their seeding

Bracket jockeying knocked them down from an 11 to a 12

There were no complaints from Oregon.

If there seemed to be a mild outcry elsewhere about what befell the Ducks on Sunday in terms of their slot in the NCAA tournament, none of it was heard coming from Matthew Knight Arena, where Oregon players and coaches gathered to watch the telecast of the unveiling of the bracket, and then met the media.

"We're just happy to be in the tournament," UO senior E.J. Singler, from South Medford, said. "We don't care where we're seeded. We're just happy we get to play."

That will happen Thursday against Oklahoma State (24-8) at approximately 1:40 p.m. in the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. The Ducks were listed as a No. 12 seed, though NCAA officials said technically Oregon would have been a No. 11 seed, but that was adjusted for the sake of the bracket, not an unusual occurrence.

In the complete listing of the teams in the field, the selection committee put Oregon 43rd of the 68 teams, one spot behind Cal, which meant Oregon was the lowest rated of the five Pac-12 teams in the field. Arizona and UCLA were both No. 6 seeds in their respective regions while Colorado was a No. 10 seed.

Why that low of a seeding for the Ducks? They were 26-8 overall, finished tied for second in the Pac-12 in the regular season at 12-6, and then won the conference tournament by defeating UCLA, the regular season champion, for the second time this season.

Mike Bobinski, the chairman of the selection committee, said Oregon's weak nonconference schedule and the loss of point guard Dominic Artis for nine games negatively affected how the Ducks were seeded.

"When Dominic went down, they took a little bit of a hit and had a hard time getting it back even when he returned," Bobinski said, adding the Ducks were a different team before his foot injury, in starting 17-2. "I thought (Saturday) night they started to look like that team again."

So could it be the Ducks wouldn't have been in the NCAA tournament without claiming the Pac-12's automatic berth on Saturday night in Las Vegas?

"Absolutely they were in the field" without earning that automatic berth, Bobinski said. The Ducks had already been "voted in the field" before they beat UCLA, he added.

Oregon's seeding, however, was also influenced by being swept by both California and Colorado, Bobinski said, which left the Ducks 4-5 against other teams in the NCAA tournament.

The Ducks are a team that "we think is very deserving of being in the field, but sort of appropriately placed," Bobinski concluded.

California was also a 12, and with the asterisk from the selection committee that the Bears were actually a No. 11 but were dropped one spot like Oregon to avoid forcing teams that play in Dayton on Tuesday from having to fly all the way to San Jose right after that. For whatever the reason it happened, the Ducks didn't mind heading for San Jose.

"We're really lucky to stay on the West Coast," Oregon's Tony Woods said. "We'll have a lot more fans out there" than if the game had been played elsewhere.

Woods is the only Oregon player with NCAA tournament experience, as a freshman at Wake Forest. UO coach Dana Altman will be coaching for the 12th time in the event, while for Oregon it is a first appearance since 2008.

"I'm as excited for No. 12 as I was for No. 1," Altman said. "I feel really good for the guys "… it'll be a different experience "… everybody will be anxious, everybody will be on edge because they've never been through it. There will be some nervous energy but our guys will respond. They'll be fine."

In the Cowboys, the Ducks draw a team that finished third in the Big 12 Conference at 13-5. They are led by 6-foot-4 freshman Marcus Smart (15.4 points, 4.2 assists), the Big 12 player of the year. They like to shoot 3-pointers and have a relatively big front line in 6-11 Philip Jurick and 6-8 Michael Cobbins.

"I don't' know how we match up with Oklahoma State," Altman said. "At this point there aren't too many bad teams" left playing.

If the Ducks defeat Oklahoma State, Oregon will play on Saturday against the winner of a game between Saint Louis (27-6), the champions of the Atlantic 10 Conference, and New Mexico State (24-10), which won the Western Athletic Conference tournament. If the Ducks win twice this week, they will advance to Indianapolis for games the following weekend.

"You have a four-team tournament now "… to get to the next week," Altman said. "All I want to do is win Thursday. There is no Saturday if we don't win Thursday.

"We've just got to find a way to compete and be successful against Oklahoma State."


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