“I don’t know how we match up with Oklahoma State but at this point, there’s not too many bad teams so it is all about matchups.”
Those were Oregon head coach Dana Altman’s words just minutes after his learning his team would play Oklahoma State in the Ducks’ first game of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Oregon being placed as a 12 seed has many fans and pundits in an uproar, but Altman thinks there were will be no easy games regardless. The focus, then, is on personnel matchups, and the ultimate showdown will be the men who decide the matchups: Dana Altman versus Travis Ford.
While the two head coaches won’t be on the playing surface, per se, their decisions for the pacing, strategy and personnel that will take place on the hardwood will have a major influence on the game’s outcome — especially with freshman playing key roles on both teams.
This is Altman’s ninth overall trip to the NCAA Tournament but his first with Oregon. Ford will be headed to the big dance for the fourth time, second with the Cowboys. He has won just below 63 percent of his games coached at Oklahoma State, while Altman at Oregon is just over 66 percent. This season has been the best record both coaches have achieved at their current programs, as the Ducks are 26-8 and the Cowboys are 24-8.
Altman utilizes a nine-man rotation, with E.J. Singler as the only major minute player averaging just over 30. Six players vary average in the 22 to 29 minute range, while Ben Carter and Waverley Austin add about 11 minutes each per game. In that rotation there are three guards, four forwards and two centers. His highest point scorer averages short of 12 points per game (Singler).
Ford plays a guard-centric lineup, with nine guys seeing regular minutes. Three of his players average over 30 minutes (all of them guards). He plays a total of six guards, two true forwards and a center. In other words, he likes to let his guards shoulder the load.
Veteran leadership is often a key to success in the NCAA Tournament, but Oklahoma State doesn’t have much of it. Of the nine-man rotation, there is only one senior and one junior. The rest of the rotation is comprised of three sophomores and four freshman.
The preparation each coach can give their young backcourts will likely be the deciding factor in this game. Oregon’s freshman Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson will be pitted against OK State’s freshman phenom Marcus Smart as well as a combo of five other guards, the oldest of which are sophomores.