Whenever I watch a Portland Trail Blazer’s game, no matter who they are playing, I always know the Blazers have a chance because they have Damian “Dame Time” Lilliard. And when it comes to the Oregon Men’s Basketball Team, I know the Ducks always have a chance because of Coach Dana Altman.
In regards to the NCAA Tournament, when I say the Ducks always have a “chance,” I don’t necessarily mean that they have a legitimate chance to win it all (certainly not this year), but that they have a real opportunity to make a run and take Duck fans on a wild ride.
Altman has a way of getting his teams to peak at just the right time when hitting the home-stretch of the season. Perhaps no better example of this was the last time the Ducks played in the NCAA tournament in 2019. After a three-game skid and finding themselves with a lackluster 15-14 record with four regular-season games remaining, it seemed the Ducks had no chance to make it into the Big Dance.
But, Altman found the magic that laid within that team as they finished the season with ten straight victories, including a Pac-12 Tournament championship and a trip to the Sweet 16, where they finally lost to the eventual champion that year, Virginia.
Last year, the Ducks finished the Pac-12 season on a four-game winning streak while winning six of their final seven games. This positioned the Ducks as the top-seed in the Pac-12 Tournament before Covid-19 wiped away another potentially magical run. Does anyone doubt that Payton Pritchard‘s final days in an Oregon uniform would have resulted in anything less than a Sweet-16 appearance?
Other Altman Highlights:
The 2012-13 team ended the regular season on a dud with two straight losses, but rebounded to win the Pac-12 Tournament and then advance to the Sweet 16.
The 2013-14 team finished the regular season with seven straight wins plus a victory in the Pac-12 Tournament.
The 2014-15 team finished the regular season with five straight wins before reaching the Pac-12 Tournament.
The 2015-16 team finished the regular season with five straight wins, won the Pac-12 Tournament, and reached the Elite 8.
Altman has taken the Ducks to the NCAA Tournament in eight (including 2020) of his eleven seasons in Eugene. Of the three years he did not, two were in his first two seasons as the program was rebuilding, while the third came from the roster depleted 2018 team a year after reaching the Final Four.
In Altman’s six previous trips to March Madness while at Oregon, the Ducks have had two Round-of-32 finishes, two Sweet 16’s, one Elite-Eight, and one Final Four.
And no first-round losses.
In his decade with the Ducks, Altman has increasingly raised expectations amongst Oregon fans to the point that reaching the Big Dance year in and year out is not enough, the Ducks need to win some games once they get there. Considering their potential matchup with what would be a heavily favored opponent (Iowa) in the second round, the Ducks likely won’t be picked by most to reach the Sweet 16, yet I just can’t help but think that they will.
After all, with Dana Altman, the Ducks always are a contender to make a big splash.
Top photo credit: Gary Breedlove
Darren Perkins is a sales professional and 1997 Oregon graduate. After finishing school, he escaped the rain and moved to sunny Southern California where he studied screenwriting for two years at UCLA. Darren grew up in Eugene and in 1980, at the tender age of five, he attended his first Oregon football game. His lasting memory from that experience was an enthusiastic Don Essig announcing to the crowd: “Reggie Ogburn, completes a pass to… Reggie Ogburn.” Captivated by such a thrilling play, Darren’s been hooked on Oregon football ever since. Currently living in Spokane, Darren enjoys flaunting his yellow and green superiority complex over friends and family in Cougar country.
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