Oregon’s Altman to coach first game against Pac-10 school in 22-year careerby Javier Morales on Dec. 23, 2010, under Sports
Random thoughts while wondering if Sean Miller can really wait until the day after Christmas to start scheming against nemesis Dana Altman, the Oregon coach who went 3-1 against Miller when Creighton and Xavier met from 2004-07. …
When Oregon (7-5) and Arizona (11-2) open the Pac-10 season on Dec. 30 at MacArthur Court, it will be the first time Altman will coach against a Pac-10 team in his 22 years as a NCAA Division I head coach. That means Altman has coached 665 games at the Division I level and not one happened to be a Pac-10 school until now (the Ducks’ non-conference slate is also over).
Despite the unfamiliarity with the Pac-10 and its coaches, Altman, a 16-year coach at Creighton, is very knowledgeable about Miller.
After the Bluejays went to five consecutive NCAA tournaments, including a 29-5 season in 2002-03, Altman continued a series with Miller at Xavier. Altman was 3-1 against Miller from 2004-2007. Xavier’s three defeats were by a total of only 10 points.
The Musketeers had trouble with Creighton’s pressing and trapping defenses.
“They beat us up,” Miller told reporters before Xavier ended the three-game losing streak with a 79-66 win on Dec. 5, 2007. “They hit us in the mouth, and I say that in a positive way.
“One of the reasons they beat us three years in a row is their style. They really force you to handle pressure and compete at a high level.”
Other than Miller, Altman has not coached against any of the league’s coaches in his career. …
For Arizona to feel safe about making the NCAA tournament, the Wildcats must win at least 12 regular-season games in the Pac-10 to increase their victory total to 23. The idea that 20 wins will sway the NCAA tournament committee means nothing when considering a team’s Rating Percentage Index (RPI).
A 23-8 record heading into the conference tournament should be enough to start another NCAA tournament streak. Finishing with nine or more losses after playing in a weak Pac-10 conference is not something to bank a team’s hopes on.
Winning all nine Pac-10 home games means Arizona needs to only win three games on the road to reach the magic number of 12. If Arizona is to be considered a serious contender for the Pac-10 title and a viable NCAA tournament team, it should sweep the Oregon schools on the road next weekend.
The Wildcats have won 10 straight games at McKale Center dating to last season. They are 8-0 this year after going 11-5 a year ago. Those 11 wins included very near losses to Lipscomb and North Carolina State had it not been for Nic Wise last-second shots.
“One of the things I hope we can do a better job of is playing at McKale,” Miller said Wednesday night after Arizona beat visiting Robert Morris 82-56. “We have great fans and a terrific home court. A year ago, we dropped three games at home in conference play (to last-place Washington State, struggling Oregon State and NIT-bound Arizona State). We want to do better than that.
“No matter what league you look in, the teams who have great seasons do really well at home. Losing three games in conference, I would not characterize as doing really well at home. We have to defend our home court. So far so good. We’re 8-0 at home and we want to build on it.” …
The latest Jeff Sagarin ratings at USA Today ranks the Pac-10 as the seventh-best conference in the nation. That’s the lowest mark of a power conference and it falls behind the Mountain West, which is rated sixth.
The good news for Arizona: Its Pac-10 foes average a higher Sagarin rating of 78.7 compared to its non-conference opponents average mark of 72.4. Therefore, if the UA manages a credible Pac-10 record of 12-6 or better, the Wildcats should improve a few spots from their current standing of No. 17 in the Sagarin poll.
Avoiding the letdowns and upset losses, as Miller pointed out, will be the difference in Arizona becoming synonymous with March Madness again.