Much has been made of Oregon's low seed in the NCAA Tournament. And the criticism has been widespread.
A team that finished tied for second in the Pac-12, then won the conference tournament, standing at 26-8 overall — a No. 12 seed?
Yet if the Ducks are feeling disrespected, they aren't showing it publicly.
"No,” said Oregon coach Dana Altman. “It's an inexact science. I'm sure that they crunched the numbers, whatever they came up with, it is what it is. You get to this time of year, you're going to face good teams.
“We're going to play a very good basketball team in Oklahoma State, but it's a tremendous opportunity. And we've got to go win basketball games, that's what it all boils down to.”
Echoed senior forward E.J. Singler: “I don't think we really even thought about it. We were just so happy we made it. Positions don't mean that much to us.”
COBBINS GOOD TO GO
In recent days, there's been some concern regarding the availability of Cowboys big man Michael Cobbins.
During the first half of Friday's Big 12 semifinal against Kansas State, Cobbins briefly dislocated his right shoulder. He finished the game, but lingering soreness forced him into a precautionary sling through the early part of this week, limiting him in practice.
But at Wednesday afternoon's availability, Cobbins was out of the sling and sounding upbeat.
“It's feeling great,” Cobbins said. “Been getting treatment and it shouldn't be a problem at all.”
Minutes later, he was on the court for the Cowboys' open practice, going through full contact drills and showing no ill effects.
After Monday's practice, OSU reserve guard Christien Sager returned to his phone to find a strange notification.
Cosmopolitan, the nationally known women's magazine, had sent him a Twitter message (You + us = #MarchHotness) with a link attached. The mag had named Sager the “13th Hottest Guy of March Madness 2013”.
“I originally thought it was spam or something because it was kind of weird,” Sager said. “But I checked and it was the actual Cosmo Twitter, had the little blue check and everything.”
In it, the magazine described Sager as “a real southern gentleman we'd like to sweep us off our feet.”
Within minutes (because that's how Twitter works), word had reached his teammates. And, by Tuesday morning's practice, even OSU coach Travis Ford was razzing Sager with some lighthearted comments about his new distinction.
“Oh yeah, we had some fun with it,” Cobbins said. “But props to him.”
DUCKS HOLD IRANIAN INFLUENCE
Oregon forward Arsalan Kazemi is a 6-7 forward from Esfahan, Iran, a more than interesting fact considering international relations.
He spent the first three seasons of his career at Rice, so he's no newcomer to the U.S. And by now, his status back home is rising, punctuated when the Ducks won the Pac-12 Tournament last week.
“My mom was watching the championship game on ESPN,” Kazemi said. “We have ESPN back home. Well, a lot of people started following, and especially when we won the championship game.
“I think there was a big picture of the Oregon Ducks in the newspaper back home.”
ALTMAN RECALLS CLASHES WITH SUTTON
During four seasons at Kansas State, Altman had his clashes with OSU.
The memories are not pleasant.
“I usually remember Eddie Sutton's team kicking our ass, that's what I remember,” Altman said. “Eddie was unbelievable to me. I was a very young coach at the time and he was really good to me. Not on the court, but off the court.
“He had some really good teams. We got him once up there, in a game that we trailed the whole thing, and ended up getting him. But for the most part they were better than us. They were bigger, more physical and got the better of us.
“So my memories of Oklahoma State aren't very good.”
Travis Ford on a newly popular comparison of Jason Kidd and Marcus Smart:
“Body-wise, I can see it. And I think they both play with a reckless abandon … In those aspects I think they're very similar. The difference is, and people don't remember, Marcus Smart never played the point guard until this year.
“Jason Kidd grew up being a point guard, all through junior high, high school. Marcus has done an incredible job of adapting. On the high school team, he's brought the ball up the court at times, but no one had ever said you are the point guard, here's the basketball. And in that way they're a little different. But body-wise, how they approach the game, I'd say that's a pretty good comparison.”
* Thursday's matchup delivers the only pairing of ranked teams in this year's NCAA Tournament Round of 64, with the Cowboys at No. 17 and the Ducks No. 25. It's only the 11th time in history that two ranked teams have squared off in the round of 64 — the first pairing of ranked schools from BCS conferences.
* On the combined rosters of OSU and Oregon, only one player can claim NCAA Tournament experience: Ducks starting center Tony Woods, who played three tournament games at Wake Forest, before transferring.
* Oregon's Singler is among 12 semifinalists for the Eddie Sutton Tustengee Award, presented by Tulsa Sports Charities to the collegiate basketball player who “best exhibits the traits of tenacity and unselfishness that Sutton advocated.”