Oregon Eager for March Madness Success, Aiming Beyond Just Securing a Spot in the Top 68

The journey is far from over for the Oregon men’s basketball team. Their quest to keep their season alive kicks off this Thursday afternoon in Pittsburgh. The Ducks, with a record of 23-11, have secured the No. 11 seed in the Midwest Region of the 2024 NCAA Tournament. They are set to compete against the No. 6 seed South Carolina, which boasts a 26-7 record.

The team, along with their friends, family, and program staff, gathered at Matthew Knight Arena for a private watch party. It was there, on Selection Sunday, that they discovered what was next for them. Immediately after, they got down to business.

Head coach Dana Altman admitted, “I’ve not seen South Carolina play. We’ll start preparing tonight.” With the game scheduled for Thursday, there’s no time to waste. “It’s a quick turnaround. The guys have a lot to accomplish. We’re also wrapping up our academic quarter, so tomorrow is going to be extremely busy. We need to be ready by Tuesday,” he explained.

Altman has led the Ducks to the NCAA Tournament eight times during his 14-year tenure. Clinching the Pac-12’s automatic bid by winning the Pac-12 Tournament ended a two-year absence from the tournament, a gap that was deeply felt within the team.

“It never gets old,” Altman shared, reflecting on the excitement of making it to the tournament. “Not being part of it leaves you feeling empty. The guys were thrilled last night, and that’s what I love to see. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience this several times.”

He encouraged his team to savor Sunday and to rise to the occasion to extend their season. Despite the lack of NCAA Tournament experience among the scholarship players on Oregon’s roster, Altman is confident. He believes his team is prepared for the tournament’s grand stage.

“This team may not be accustomed to this situation, but the finals of the conference tournament were filled with pressure. They’ve already faced tough opponents like UCLA, Arizona, and Colorado. They’re ready for the tournament,” Altman assured.

The Ducks have swiftly shifted from the excitement of securing their spot in the NCAA Tournament to focusing on advancing further.

“South Carolina won’t be concerned with our Pac-12 victory. It doesn’t hold much weight now. We need to refocus and prepare for Thursday,” Altman emphasized.

“We have a goal; we aim to win. It’s not just about making it there,” N’Faly Dante added. “Our focus is solely on South Carolina right now. We’ll take it one game at a time.”

“There was a 24-hour period to celebrate and enjoy, but we have more work ahead. We want to continue playing,” senior Jermaine Couisnard stated.

Couisnard, who transferred to Oregon after spending his first four college years at South Carolina, shared that he still keeps in touch with some of his former teammates and coaches. However, he’s putting those connections on hold for now.

“I haven’t checked my phone, but I’m sure they’ve texted me. I won’t be responding, though; they know how I am,” he said.

Oregon’s first game of the tournament is scheduled as the seventh match on the opening day, with a tip-off time of 4 PM local time in the east and 1 PM PT. The game will be broadcast on TNT, featuring commentary by Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas, and Evan Washburn.