EUGENE, Ore.- After the conference race fell into place last Wednesday night, the Ducks’ magic number was one—as in one win and the Ducks would clinch the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament. But they ended up with zero, with losses to Colorado and Utah, bringing them to their current number: three.
The Colorado-Utah sweep dropped the Ducks to the three-seed in this week’s conference tournament, with a match-up with either Washington or Washington State on the horizon Thursday in Las Vegas. But for the Ducks, their biggest opposition might be overcoming the sense of shortcoming they experienced over the weekend.
“It’s all up to us,” said senior E.J. Singler. “That’s what we’ve been talking about. When we’ve lost it’s been because of us and when we’ve won it’s been because of us. It doesn’t matter who we play. I feel good about anyone that we play against. But we’ve got to worry about ourselves.”
Singler was unable to explain why, but believes the team lacked the “energy and passion” needed to win, something that has to be characterized as concerning when all that was on the line is considered.
“It’s behind us now. We’ve had our time to dwell on it. But we can’t anymore. We’ve put it behind us and we’re moving forward,” Singler said.
Instead, Singler chooses to focus on their game Thursday, because the greater goal is a berth in the NCAA tournament, something he’s never achieved and the program hasn’t either since 2008. In order for that goal to come to fruition, they’ll need to win at least one game in Vegas, Singler believes.
“We’re just looking at it as a new season. We’ve got a big tournament coming this week and that’s our focus. We feel like we have a good chance to go in and win it,” he said.
Their optimism within the program for the trip and the pending NCAA tournament berth, is in large part because the Ducks have shown resiliency in the past.
“Every game is different, but they’ll respond,” Altman said. “We’re all disappointed. We won 23 games. We’ve had down performances before and we’ve bounced back. I’ve got every reason to believe we will [again].”
Monday the Pac-12 announced its conference awards and honors. Altman took home Coach of the Year, while Singler and two teammates were named member of All-conference teams. The senior from Medford was part of the All-Conference First-Team, Arsalan Kazemi was on the All-Defense team and Damyean Dotson the All-Freshman team.
“A lot of work has gone in and to see that work awarded. I’m really happy and really proud of it,” said Singler of the honor.
“Unbelievable. I thought he did a great job this year and he really deserves it. He’s been a great coach this whole year. I’m really happy for him too,” he said of his coach’s award.
“It’s nice, but I’ll trade it in for another win or two in the conference. That’s for darned sure,” Altman said.
Altman has led the Ducks to three 20-win seasons in his first years at Oregon and the Ducks have finished tied for second in the conference each of the past two seasons.
Oregon will face the winner of Wednesday’s Washington-Washington State game. The quarterfinal will be played Thursday at 8:30 P.M. at the MGM Grande. The game will be televised on ESPNU.