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Canzano: Pac-12 channeling its inner Last Chance U
Men's basketball season has been wild.
Dana Altman is 64 years old. That puts the University of Oregon men’s basketball coach squarely in “I’m too old for this s**t” territory.
At different points of this season I’ve wondered if the Ducks coach might just throw in the keys. But all that seemed far away on Saturday night. The Ducks, who had been hapless on defense and inconsistent on offense, played their best game of the conference season.
Oregon clobbered Arizona 87-68 at Matthew Knight Arena.
Altman sounded happy in the post-game news conference. Also, disappointed that the consistency, effort and energy hadn’t been there all season.
“Our consistency has been shady,” he said.
The Ducks beat Arizona in points off turnovers, points in the paint, rebounds, and shooting percentage. Oregon had great effort and enthusiasm. And in the end, Altman asked his team in the locker room after the game: “Who are we? Who do we want to be known for?”
It’s the stuff of Last Chance U, isn’t it?
I happen to be knee-deep in watching season two of the Netflix series. A friend of mine recently recommended it and I’m all-in. After the cathartic UO win, Altman sounded suspiciously like coach John Mosley of East Los Angeles College. It makes sense. Oregon is sort of at the “last chance” portion of their Pac-12 season. So are some of the other Pac-12 teams.
I suppose the Ducks will answer those “Who are we?” questions soon enough. On Saturday, they appeared to be a team that wants to matter this season. N’Faly Dante was terrific against Arizona. He had 22 points and 10 rebounds. But the biggest boost came on the perimeter, where Jermaine Couisnard scored 27 points and shot 6 for 9 on three-point shots.
Nobody trusts Oregon this season. The Ducks are giving fans whiplash. I’m sure some of that has to do with the fact that they’ve been hit by injuries and disruptions. But that’s college basketball. I just liked that Oregon came out with effort and urgency against Arizona, winning a game that felt like a good one to get.
This was exactly the kind of victory that Altman has used over the years to catapult his team into sustained stretches of strong play. But Altman was busy sending a message to his team after the game, reminding them that they’re just about out of chances this season.
“It’s in the locker room,” Altman said. “The coaching staff isn’t going to change our preparation… we didn’t do anything different. We prepared the same way. We didn’t scream and yell at them. We practiced for two hours.
“We didn’t do anything different.”
• WIDE OPEN SPACES: Anyone else think the men’s Pac-12 Tournament at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas going to be a roller derby?
UCLA is undefeated in conference play. Bobby Hurley has Arizona State (6-1 in Pac-12) playing really well. Beyond that, USC (5-2), Utah (5-3), Arizona (4-3) and Oregon (4-3) have all had great moments — interrupted by awful ones — this season.
The conference has felt like a two-bid conference for the NCAA Tournament lately. But nobody would be shocked in March to see a surprise team win the conference tournament and grab the Pac-12’s automatic bid. Any of the teams mentioned above could easily pull that off.
UCLA and USC are in the desert this coming week. I can’t decide if the better game on Saturday is going to be Arizona-UCLA in Tucson or ASU-USC in Tempe.
If you could go to only one, which would you want to see?
• PAC-12 IN THE NFL PLAYOFFS: Former Arizona State star Brandon Aiyuk was the 49ers leading receiver this season. He caught 78 passes for 1,015 yards in the regular season. He’s one of 70 former Pac-12 Conference players who are on NFL Playoff rosters this postseason.
The 49ers lead the postseason teams with nine active ex-Pac-12 players: Aiyuk (ASU), LB Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles (Arizona), DL Arik Armstead (Oregon), DB Deommodore Lenoir (Oregon), RB Christian McCaffrey (Stanford), OL Jake Brendel (UCLA), S Talanoa Hufanga (USC), DL Drake Jackson (USC), P Mitch Wishnowsky (Utah).
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