Travis Ford took a look at video of Oregon and the Oklahoma State coach was wondering what the NCAA had done to his Cowboys, if not the Ducks.
“That’s one of the best 12 seeds I’ve ever seen," Ford said of Oregon.
He’ll see the Ducks in person on Thursday when the teams meet in the NCAA tournament at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., when it will become a matter of whether Oregon can continue the string of upsets posted by No. 12 seeds over No. 5 seeds in the tournament.
“I don’t think it’ll be an upset if we win," protested Oregon coach Dana Altman. “Oklahoma State is a good team, but we’re a good team, too."
Altman is adamant that when teams are chosen for the NCAA tournament, or earn their way in with an automatic berth as Oregon did, they’re all good enough to win games, regardless of their seeding in the field.
“The numbers (of the seeds) are just numbers," Altman said, adding that he told the Ducks prior to the bracket being revealed on Sunday, “don’t worry about what the numbers are."
Well, perhaps nowhere has that been proven more correct than with the matchups of teams seeded fifth and 12th.
In the 28 seasons since the NCAA field was expanded first to 64 teams, and now to 68, the 12 seeds are 38-74 against No. 5 seeds.
Last year, two of the 12 seeds defeated five seeds, with South Florida ousting Temple and VCU sending Wichita State home. In 2009, three of the No. 12 seeded teams won their games against No. 5 seeds.
In 22 of the past 24 seasons, at least one No. 12 seed has beaten a No. 5 seed.
So with history arguing it will happen, the question is where is the perceived upset this week?
The other No. 12s seeking to go against form, based on seeding, are California (against UNLV), Akron (against VCU) and Mississippi (against Wisconsin).
That’s a rematch for Cal, which lost on the final possession to UNLV early in the season. The other three No. 12s all won their conference tournaments, and carry momentum into their NCAA tournament openers.
There is also the matter that the selection committee said Oregon and California were actually No. 11 seeds in the view of the selectors, but their seed had to be dropped a spot to make the entire bracket work out.
Still, Ford said he thinks Oregon is underrated by the selection committee “more than any team in the NCAA field.
“Our guys have heard of Oregon, they’ve been watching (the Ducks) on TV," Ford added. “We obviously have a lot of respect for them."
In the betting lines, all of the No. 12 seeds are underdogs, with Oklahoma State about a three-point favorite over the Ducks, and that is the closest spread posted for those four games of 5 vs. 12.
Again, “just numbers," Altman would suggest.
“I’ve been on both ends of upsets," the Oregon coach said of his own NCAA experience.
One of those came in 2002 when Altman’s Creighton team, seeded 12th in its region, knocked out No. 5 seed Florida in the first round with an 83-82 win in overtime.
The start of Gonzaga’s impressive run in NCAA tournaments might have gotten its initial boost in 1999, when the 12th-seeded Bulldogs knocked off Virginia, with the Cavs a No. 5 seed that year.
Want one closer to home? Ball State was a No. 12 seed in the 1990 tournament, and rose up to defeat No. 5 seed Oregon State, 54-53, the last time the Beavers were an NCAA tournament team.
While that might seem to be the kind of upset that gets remembered from past NCAA tournaments, a 12 win over a 5 isn’t always the unsung team from a lesser league beating a well-known team from one of the so-called power conferences.
The first 12 seed to beat a 5 seed in this expanded form of the tournament was Kentucky in 1985. Arizona won an opening game as a 12 seed, too. As did Villanova.
The selection committee isn’t perfect in its seeding. Teams can raise their level of play for a day, and how much difference is there really between a bunch of the entrants?
“They’re all good teams in the tournament," Altman insisted. “At this point, there aren’t bad teams."
A lot of No. 5 seeds can attest to that. At least about the No. 12 seeds.