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Could Oregon be No. 1 seed in NCAA tourney? Ducks hope to impress seeders.

Byline: Steve Mims The Register-Guard

Dana Altman declined the opportunity to campaign for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament after Oregon captured the Pac-12 regular season title on Saturday.

Following Oregon's 76-66 victory at USC, Altman was asked if the Pac-12 champion should be a top seed when the NCAA bracket is unveiled on Sunday. Altman pointed out that Oregon still has more opportunities to impress the selection committee.

"The guys on the committee work their tails off, so I would never second-guess them," he said. "We need to go win the (Pac-12) tournament. If we win the tournament, we're one of the teams they'll probably talk about. They've got a real tough job, and those guys spend a lot of time getting it right."

Jerry Palm of CBS Sports projects Oregon as a No. 2 seed, and ESPN's Joe Lunardi has them as a third seed. Oregon, which is No. 4 in the RPI rankings, can boost its tournament rsum this week at the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas.

The ninth-ranked Ducks (25-6) went 14-4 to win earn the top seed in the tournament at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Oregon will have a first-round bye before facing either Stanford or Washington in the quarterfinals at noon on Thursday.

"Winning the conference gives us a lot of confidence," senior forward Elgin Cook said. "We feel great now and are ready to play anyone."

Oregon won the 2013 tournament title and lost to Arizona in last year's championship game. The Ducks are 8-4 in the conference tournament in five trips under Altman.

"We are happy with the conference championship, but not satisfied," senior forward Dwayne Benjamin said. "We want to go to the Pac-12 tournament and try to win that, too."

That's the mindset Altman drilled into his team before the Ducks were even done celebrating their regular-season championship on Saturday.

"I want them to enjoy it, but then Monday we'll have a hard practice and Tuesday we jump on a plane to go to Vegas to get ready to play Thursday at noon," he said. "It will happen really quick, so we can't rejoice too much."

The Pac-12 has had a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament in nine of the past 18 seasons. Of the five Pac-12 teams that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA field since the conference tournament resumed in 2002, three of them won the conference tournament.

Since the current NCAA seeding format began in 1979, the Pac-12 has had 15 No. 1 seeds and only Washington in 2005 finished 14-4 in conference play. The other 14 top seeds all won at least 15 conference games.

Oregon was a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament in 2002 when it won the conference at 14-4. The Ducks reached the Elite Eight that season.

Oregon has been to the NCAA Tournament in each of the past three seasons under Altman and was never higher than a No. 7 seed during that time.

The Ducks were a No. 12 seed in 2013 when they upset fifth-seeded Oklahoma State and fourth-seeded Saint Louis before losing to eventual national champion Louisville, a No. 1 seed. Oregon was the seventh seed in 2014 when it beat No. 10 BYU and lost to second-seeded Wisconsin. Last year, the eighth-seeded Ducks beat No. 9 Oklahoma State and lost to top-seeded Wisconsin.

Oregon won't run into a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the tournament as quickly this season as it did in the past three years.

"Wherever they put us, we just have to go play," Altman said. "It's a little different this year because of our strength of schedule and nonconference schedule, but it's still about matchups. It's no different when they put us as a 12 seed and we won twice. If we're playing a 12 seed or whoever, they're going to think the same thing.

"Most teams don't care what their seed is, they just care that they're in. We were no different when we were a 12 or the last two years when we played Wisconsin as a No. 1 or No. 2. We thought we were going to win."

Whatever seed the committee gives Oregon, the Ducks have the same feeling this year.

"Winning the conference has taught us that we can do anything we set our minds to if we stick to the principles coach Altman gives us and play our hardest," Benjamin said.

Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveMims_RG. Email steve.mims@registerguard.com.
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Title Annotation:Oregon Men Basketball; Will the seeding committee consider Oregon for No. 1 seed?
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:1U9OR
Date:Mar 7, 2016
Words:754
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