Self, Alt­man go way back

Kansas, Ore­gon coaches meet­ing this time with much more at stake

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Dave Skretta

kansas city, mo.» Bill Self and Dana Alt­man first matched wits more than two decades ago, when Self was try­ing to turn around tiny Oral Roberts in Tulsa, Okla., and Alt­man was at­tempt­ing the same in his first sea­son at Creighton in Omaha.

The young coaches com­bined to win only 17 games that sea­son. My, how far they have come. Both even­tu­ally suc­ceeded in their re­build­ing jobs, to the point they kept get­ting big­ger and more glamorous of­fers else­where. Self would head off to the Univer­sity of Tulsa and Illi­nois be­fore ar­riv­ing at Kansas, where he has the top-seeded Jay­hawks one win from his third Fi­nal Four, while Alt­man would some­day land at Ore­gon, which takes on Kansas for the Mid­west Re­gional cham­pi­onship Satur­day night.

Nei­ther coach could have imag­ined it when they faced off that Novem­ber night in 1994.

“I’ve known Bill for a very long time,” Alt­man con­ceded, point­ing out they were also as­sis­tant coaches in the Big Eight Con­fer­ence be­fore be­com­ing head coaches. “Bill has a way of get­ting the best out of each of his team . ... He’s al­ways been at great pro­grams and made them bet­ter.”

This might be Self ’s best team — bet­ter even than his 2008 na­tional ti­tle team.

The Big 12 cham­pion Jay­hawks (31-5) roared into the Mid­west Re­gional fi­nal with an av­er­age mar­gin of vic­tory of 30 points, dust­ing aside Big Ten cham­pion Pur­due by 32 on Thurs­day night. They played at such a high level in the sec­ond half that Boil­er­mak­ers coach Matt Painter, al­ways will­ing to give credit where it’s due, stopped just short of call­ing the Jay­hawks in­vin­ci­ble.

Se­nior guard Frank Ma­son III, the Big 12 player of the year, has be­come the front-run­ner for na­tional player of the year. Devonte Gra­ham has poured in 3-point­ers at a record­set­ting rate. And star fresh­man Josh Jack­son has brushed off his many off-the-court is­sues to send his NBA draft stock soar­ing.

Oh, and the Jay­hawks get to play No. 3 seed Ore­gon at the Sprint Cen­ter, the glassen­closed arena in down­town Kansas City that hap­pens to be only a 40-minute drive from their leafy cam­pus in Lawrence.

“We know we have a tough game ahead of us,” Ore­gon guard Tyler Dorsey said Fri­day. “They’re go­ing to have a home-court ad­van­tage. We just have to be ready, keep tak­ing it game by game.”

The Pac-12 pow­er­house Ducks (32-5) have done a sub­lime job of that so far.

Whereas Kansas has run roughshod through the first three rounds, the Ducks cruised past Iona be­fore run­ning into trou­ble. It took a heart-stop­ping fi­nal few min­utes to put away Rhode Is­land last week­end, and a missed 3-pointer by Michi­gan at the fi­nal buzzer to sur­vive Thurs­day night.

But now, the Ducks sit on the precipice of their first Fi­nal Four berth since win­ning the in­au­gu­ral 1939 cham­pi­onship, and Alt­man sits one win from reach­ing the first na­tional semi­fi­nal show­down of his ca­reer, which in­cludes a head coach­ing job at Kansas State.

“Dana and I have known each other a long time,” Self said. “We know that (Satur­day) is go­ing to be a highly com­pet­i­tive game. We’ve been for­tu­nate that we’ve played con­sis­tently well, but it’s go­ing to take an­other ef­fort like that to ad­vance.”

Bill Self is 416-87 as Kansas’ coach, in­clud­ing one of the Jay­hawks’ three na­tional ti­tles. Kansas’ all-time NCAA Tour­na­ment record is 103-44. Jamie Squire, Getty Im­ages

Dana Alt­man is 186-69 as Ore­gon’s coach. Chris Pi­etsch, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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