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  • MEN'S NCAA TOURNAMENT

    Can Oregon handle the pressure?

    Ducks face big task of taking care of ball against Louisville
  • What's Oregon to do?
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  • What's Oregon to do?
    The Ducks know they're going to face defensive pressure unlike anything they've seen all season when they go against Louisville in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, but how do they prepare for it?
    Oregon can't suddenly create a practice squad out of the reserves that will accurately mimic what Louisville does defensively. There's no way to schedule a scrimmage against another team that puts on the pressure the way the Cardinals will on Friday in Indianapolis.
    And watching video of Louisville will hardly give the Ducks a feel for what's coming in the semifinals of the Midwest Regional.
    "You can compare it to people trying to (simulate) our football team's speed," UO coach Dana Altman said. "You can't do it. You try a little bit and hope the guys get a little feel for it."
    Maybe he needs to put six or seven defenders on defense in practice to raise the level of the challenge to something that will approximate Louisville?
    "We have enough trouble with five (defenders)," Altman joked. "We might go (against) four to build our confidence.
    "We will definitely have our hands full."
    If that's not enough, the Ducks will be in the position of a visiting team, with a large turnout of Louisville followers expected in the facility that can seat up to 36,000 for this regional. And it's all in the heated atmosphere of being two games from the Final Four.
    No, practice before a handful of observers is nothing like that.
    "You can't put 15 or 20 thousand of their fans in the stadium (for practice). You can't add the pressure of a Sweet 16 game," Altman said. "You can't simulate (Louisville's) speed so we'll just try to do the best we can "… go in there and swing away."
    And try to hang on to the basketball. Louisville has forced its first two NCAA opponents into their season highs for turnovers. The Cardinals set an NCAA Tournament record with 20 steals in their opener against North Carolina A&T.
    "They're always coming at you, they're always pushing you down into the corners, using the sidelines as an extra defender," Oregon's Johnathan Loyd said. "We're going to have to stay out of the (area near) sidelines and keep the ball in the middle of the floor and attack it."
    After a couple of NCAA games last weekend, and the way officials called games in the Pac-12 tournament, the Ducks have found March basketball is a little different than most of the regular season. There is more contact allowed now and there is more hand checking in the open court. There simply aren't as many whistles blown.
    That's apparently Louisville's preference, too.
    "They do go a little bit by the premise that (officials) can't call all the fouls," Altman said. "They are active with their hands."
    It all sounds like quite the challenge for the Ducks, who committed the most turnovers in the Pac-12 this season, an average of 15 per game. Even in winning their first two NCAA games, the Ducks had 18 turnovers in each victory.
    And now Louisville? Uh-oh.
    "They make adjustments during the game, they throw different looks at you all night," Altman said. "As a team you've got to stay really focused."
    What Altman fears most is a series of turnovers by the Ducks that fuels a sudden spurt by the Cardinals that can turn the outcome of the game.
    "They get on those runs, they just multiply points, they don't add them," Altman said. "We've got to be really focused and really handle the ball, and it hasn't been a strength of ours."
    So what do the Ducks do? It wasn't a lengthy practice on Tuesday, which followed a light workout Monday that emphasized shooting as Altman attempts to get his team as refreshed as possible.
    "This late in March, we've been at it a long time," Altman said of reducing Oregon's time on the court. "Heck, I'm tired, they're tired, you're just going on the excitement of being alive."
    The team took a charter flight to Indianapolis Wednesday morning, and held a workout later in the day. There will be a practice at noon today for 50 minutes in Lucas Oil Stadium, and then the game Friday.
    And that's when the Ducks will really find out about the Louisville pressure.
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