The Oregon men’s basketball team (23-9, 10-8 Pac-12) is the seven seed in the West region of the NCAA tournament. They’ll play the 10th-seeded BYU Cougars (23-11, 13-5 WCC) in Milwaukee, Wis., on Thursday, March 20 at approximately 12:10 p.m. Pacific Time. The Ducks defeated BYU 100-96 in overtime on Dec. 21.
“Nothing but excitement,” senior guard Johnathan Loyd said about his reaction to Oregon’s selection. “It’s a great opportunity for us (playing) a BYU team we played already. We’re both different teams, so it’s going to be a tough matchup. A great game.”
Head coach Dana Altman said he had no idea where the Ducks would end up, and he didn’t care one bit as long as they made the field of 68.
“You get an opportunity,” Altman said. “That’s all you look for.”
Sophomore guard Damyean Dotson remembered watching the selection show last year, when the Ducks received a surprisingly low 12 seed. The team with the higher seed appears first on the bracket in CBS’ broadcast, followed by the lower seed, so 2013 first-round opponent Oklahoma State popped up first, with Oregon directly after. On Sunday, the order for Oregon’s selection flipped.
“This year, to see our name pop up first was very exciting,” Dotson said.
Loyd said he expected the Ducks to get a 9-10 seed, so he was excited about the seven seed because it showed respect for his team, a feeling he didn’t have last year on Selection Sunday.
“I felt like we were disrespected last year,” Loyd said. “That was a little more motivation. We had a little chip.”
Loyd, Dotson and Altman all expect that same drive to be there against BYU, who nearly derailed Oregon’s bid for a perfect nonconference record in their Decemeber matchup. On Thursday, Altman and his team expect a similar battle.
“They’re a very good team, very well-coached, and we’re going to have to bring our A game,” Altman said.
Oregon is coming off an 82-63 loss to UCLA in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament, which Loyd thinks will also help motivate them against the Cougars.
“We’ve got a sour taste in our mouths,” Loyd said. “We didn’t feel like we showed people our best game. We didn’t give it our all, so we’re about to go out there and do the complete opposite.”
The Ducks almost didn’t make it to this point. They lost eight of their first 11 conference games and the NIT looked like the most likely postseason destination. But Oregon caught fire starting on Feb. 16 against Oregon State, rattling off eight straight wins. Altman expressed how impressed he was with his team’s ability to never give up when they easily could have.
“In practice, he (Altman) always told us, ‘Do you want to go to a three-letter tournament or a four-letter tournament?’” Dotson said. “That just motivated us to play hard and practice hard.”
This will be a homecoming game for redshirt sophomore forward Elgin Cook, who went to Milwaukee’s Hamilton High School. Dotson said Cook was hoping the Ducks would end up in Milwaukee before the selection was announced. Altman said Cook was one of many Oregon players wanting to play in or near their hometowns for the beginning of the tournament.
“We had Rich (Amardi) and Jason (Calliste) hoping for Buffalo, Joseph (Young) and Dot hoping for San Antonio, Elgin had Milwaukee,” Altman said, “and I didn’t care. We’re in and we’re playing. Just excited about that.”
Dotson, a Houston, Texas native, was asked if the seven seed was a surprise or about what he expected. He said the seeding made no difference in his mind.
“I was trying to go to San Antonio,” Dotson said of the Final Four site. “We could’ve been a 12 seed. I just want to go back home.”
Both Loyd and Dotson screamed “Woo!” as they excited the media room Sunday afternoon. As they made their way down the tunnel, one of them yelled, “Let’s get it!”
Follow Victor Flores on Twitter @vflores415