Oregon men's basketball coach Dana Altman is new to the state and, despite a long coaching career, has never been involved in a game pitting brother against brother.

Oregon men's basketball coach Dana Altman is new to the state and, despite a long coaching career, has never been involved in a game pitting brother against brother.

But the significance of today's contest between Duke and his Ducks at the Rose Garden in Portland is not lost on him.

If you haven't heard, the brothers Singler, Kyle of Duke and E.J. of Oregon, both starting small forwards, will do battle.

"It's a good matchup for Medford," Altman said this week. "It's neat that the Singler family gets to enjoy a game like this. One son is returning with a national-championship team, and another son is playing for the state team. It's kind of a neat deal."

Altman is in his 22nd year as an NCAA Division I coach and can't recall being involved in a game with such familial dynamics.

At midweek, he and E.J. Singler hadn't spoken much about the game.

"I'm sure E.J.'s really excited about it," said Altman. "It's going to be a great day for their family. He just has to keep it in perspective and try to play within himself. His brother has much more experience playing in big games than he does."

Based on recent lineups, the Singler boys could well be defending each other much of the game, said Ed Singler, the father, on our Sports Chat this week (archived at www.mailtribune.com/mtsportschat).

On the show, mom Kris suggested Kyle might plead with coach Mike Krzyzewski for a chance to defend E.J.

While it's an intriguing confrontation for the Singlers, it has to be the same for Altman, who will oppose Duke and Coach K — who on Tuesday became the fifth coach in history to reach 800 wins at the same school — for the first time in his career.

Altman came to Oregon in April after 16 years at Creighton, and in 13 of those years, he took the Bluejays to the postseason.

The closest he came to facing Duke was in the West Regional of the 2003 NCAA tournament. The Blue Devils were the No. 3 seed and Creighton the No. 6 seed. If both won their first games in Salt Lake City, they would have met in the second round.

Duke did its part, beating Colorado State, 67-57, but Creighton fell to 11th-seeded Central Michigan, 79-73. The Blue Devils got as far as the Sweet Sixteen that year.

About having dodged Duke all these years, Altman said, "With the good teams they've had, that's probably a good thing."

Then he thought to 2003 and decided it was a bad thing because it meant his team didn't answer the challenge when it had a chance to create such a matchup.

Speaking of "matchups," Altman, who also coached at Kansas State and Marshall, cautioned about using the word — at least as it pertains to himself and Coach K.

"It really is not a matchup," said Altman. "He's accomplished things that all of us coaches dream of. There's not much of a matchup there. I hope our team matches up a lot better with their team because in the coaching ranks, it's not much of a matchup. He's had an amazing career. He's been there, done that."

U

E.J. SINGLER PROBABLY is more familiar with Duke than anyone.

When Krzyzewski recruited Kyle Singler, he interacted with E.J. When Kyle was at Duke, the legendary coach still sent a note or two to the younger sibling.

"I got notes that said to keep my high school team going and to keep positive," said E.J. "They were really good notes to me. He's a legend in the basketball world. Those words meant a lot."

E.J. has been back to Durham, N.C., where Duke is based, a couple of times to watch the Blue Devils play. Being around such an elite program was "cool," he said, and he "took a lot back from that."

The coolest thing, however, was going to last year's Final Four and watching Kyle cut down the net following a 61-59 victory over Butler in Indianapolis.

"It was just a once-in-a-lifetime experience to go to the Final Four and watch someone you know playing in the games," said E.J. "It was Kyle's dream come true, but it was a dream for our whole family to watch someone we love have it happen for him. It was so cool to watch Duke win it."

There's a long way to go, but E.J. has the same dream, to one day earn his own piece of twine after the title game.

"I got to see how hard it is, too," he said. "It's not easy. It showed me a lot."

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com