Dana Altman should be the Pac-12 Coach of the Year, perhaps in a runaway now. Barring a collapse, his Oregon team will be in the NCAA Tournament, and that’s no small feat when you consider where this program has been since the end of last season.
On Sunday, Oregon got the signature win they had lacked to go with a host of other good/okay wins, knocking off Utah 69-58 in Eugene. Dillon Brooks scored 11 straight Oregon points, starting with a personal 7-0 run, to lift the Ducks, who tied for the second-highest point total allowed by the Utes on the season.
Last May, Oregon dismissed three players who were involved in a sexual assault allegation. Some also wondered about the suspension and subsequent dismisal – which came days apart – coming about two months after the investigation began. In fact, Altman was sued along with the university in January regarding the matter. All was not well in Eugene at that time, especially if you just look from a pure basketball standpoint as it’s very difficult to replace departed players with similarly talented ones.
Since Altman took over, the team’s roster has often been in a state of flux, as they have had a number of transfers – several of the one-year variety. This only ensured that fans would need a program once again in 2014-15, and made them a very difficult team to project.
It hasn’t been smooth sailing for the Ducks. They went to Brooklyn for the Legends Classic in November and lost both games. They had a home loss to Ole Miss mixed in with a good run of home wins that were mostly against teams they should beat. The worst stretch was losing at both of the Washington schools in mid-January, which concluded a stretch of three losses in four games. Their worst loss was probably the one in Pullman, which they lost by nine in overtime.
The Ducks had a win over Illinois to their credit, and a win over UCLA later that may be of some value. But until Sunday, they lacked a win over a sure NCAA Tournament team. They have that now, as well as sole possession of third place in the Pac-12. With it, Dana Altman should take home postseason honors, one more testament to his coaching ability.
Virginia beat Florida State 51-41, another fine defensive effort by the Cavaliers as they held the Seminoles without a field goal for the final 10:32 of the game. But more important is that the Cavaliers have two more players to be concerned about health-wise, as Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes collided in a scary moment. Brogdon returned not long after going to the locker room for stitches and a bandage, but Perrantes was badly bloodied and could miss a bit of time if he has a broken nose, which is suspected. He did return to the bench to be with his teammates, which is a good sign. Virginia is already playing without second-leading scorer Justin Anderson.
Michigan knocked off Ohio State 64-57 in Ann Arbor to move a bit closer to .500 in Big Ten play, handing the Buckeyes their second straight loss and third in five games. Also in the Big Ten, Michigan State beat Illinois 60-53 in Champaign, getting 20 points and nine rebounds from Denzel Valentine.
Staying in the Big Ten, Nebraska was embarrassed by Iowa 74-46 in Lincoln, but the game is only part of the story. Following the game, head coach Tim Miles wouldn’t let his players get to their locker room and lounge and also banned them from speaking to the media. Miles was upset with their effort in the game, and told ESPN.com that the ban will be indefinite.
Bucknell clinched at least a share of the Patriot League regular season title on Sunday with a 78-69 win over Boston University in Lewisburg. The Bison now lead Colgate, who lost 80-78 in a triple overtime thriller at Loyola (Md.), by two games with two to play.
So much for a showdown in Cleveland on Friday night. Milwaukee pulled off a 66-60 win over
visiting Cleveland State, putting the Vikings two games back in the loss column. That means Valparaiso can clinch the regular season title with a win at Detroit on Wednesday night. If Detroit wins, Cleveland State can tie the Crusaders with a win on Friday night.
Louisville will have to finish the season without guard Chris Jones, as Rick Pitino dismissed him on Sunday. Jones was suspended for Wednesday’s game against Syracuse for non-basketball reasons, then he returned against Miami on Saturday. His loss is not insignificant, as he’s not only a starter but has also come up big in a few games for them this season. That will also likely make the NCAA Tournament selection committee evaluate their seeding a bit differently given that they have had him for all but one game to this point and won’t have him in the tournament.
Although it’s a light slate as usual, the games have a little more on the line now.
- Louisville travels to Georgia Tech in the first game of the post-Chris Jones era.
- St. John’s hosts Xavier in a Big East battle between bubble teams.
- Arch-rivals battle in Manhattan as Kansas State hosts Kansas, needing a win.
- The MEAC, Southland and SWAC all have a busy slate, with the big matchup of the night being a SWAC showdown between visiting Alabama State and Southern, the latter of whom is a half game back in the standings (Texas Southern, who hosts Mississippi Valley State, is also tied for first with an 11-2 SWAC record).