LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Tony Bennett left the Pac-12 Conference one year before Dana Altman arrived at Oregon.
When the Ducks looked to add a couple nonconference games in Altman’s first two seasons, they called Bennett to get Virginia on the schedule.
The Cavaliers defeated UO 63-48 on Dec. 17, 2010 during Altman’s 11th game with the Ducks and his first true road game. The following season, Virginia beat Oregon 67-54 at Matthew Knight Arena.
“We were needing a game and Tony was needing a game, so we just went home-and-home and started the series out there and then got beat at home, also,” Altman recalled this week.
Those are the only two previous games between the schools that will face off in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament tonight at 7 p.m.
Bennett has his own history with the Ducks, going 6-2 against Oregon as the Washington State coach from 2006-09.
“When I was at Washington State, and I got the job at Virginia, I think the majority of people are like, who is this, who's this guy?” Bennett said on Wednesday. “Again, they knew the name from, obviously, the singer, but that's about it. Half the time, everybody's in bed when the Pac - well, it was Pac-10 when I was there - the Pac-12 are playing games. But I have great respect for Oregon and for coach Altman. Dana's done a terrific job. What he's done with his team to kind of change things and win 10 games. I obviously watch them.”
The 12th-seeded Ducks (25-12) are the last double-digit seed in the field while Virginia (31-3) is a No. 1 seed for the fourth time under Bennett.
Virginia is familiar with the KFC YUM! Center as the home of ACC rival Louisville.
The Cavaliers beat the Cardinals 64-52 at the arena on Feb. 23. Last year, Virginia rallied from a four-point deficit in the final five seconds at Louisville to win 67-66 on a 3-pointer by De’Andre Hunter at the buzzer.
“We’ve certainly had some battles and you’re in, I guess, a familiar setting,” Bennett said. “I’m sure the floor is going to be different and all that. I don’t know how that will affect us. … So to be in a place that you’ve been, you maybe understand the feel a little bit, that can’t be a bad thing.”
Oregon will certainly have the smallest fan base of the four schools playing at KFC YUM! Center tonight. Tennessee and Purdue play at 4:30 p.m. followed by the Ducks and Cavaliers.
The three other schools come from states that border Kentucky. Purdue and Tennessee have campuses that are about a three-hour drive from the arena while Virginia is about eight hours away.
Hunter, Virginia’s 6-foot-7 sophomore who is averaging 15.2 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, is a likely lottery pick in the NBA Draft. Oregon freshman Louis King has seen his draft stock rise during the past couple weeks, according to ESPN’s Mike Schmitz, who said on Wednesday that the 6-9 forward is “knocking on the door of the first round.”
King, who is currently ranked as the No. 57 prospect in the draft by ESPN, said last week he would not comment on the possibility of being one-and-done with the Ducks until after the season is over. He seems likely to declare for the draft and seek a spot at the Combine before determining his future, but a first-round grade would almost certainly mean the end of his college career.
King is averaging 16.5 points in six postseason games while shooting 33-for-69 from the field, including 15-for-30 on 3-pointers, to go with 5.3 rebounds per game.