With Oklahoma and Oregon winning their West Region Sweet 16 games, it sets up an Elite 8 showdown between two long-time friends and former colleagues, head coaches Lon Kruger and Dana Altman, with the winner headed to the Final Four. Kruger hired Altman in the mid-80’s to join his Kansas State basketball staff and said the job he’s done with Oregon this season should be considered for the country’s best.
“[Altman is a] really good sharp basketball guy, loves the game, very good relationship with his players,” Kruger told The Jim Rome Show on Friday. “Did a fantastic job at Creighton for 16-17 years, and now at Oregon. Just a phenomenal job there. I think, clearly, he and Bill Self out of our league are the two guys that are clearly coach of the year in the country top candidates. They’ve done just a better job, I think, than anyone else. I think Dana’s team the last six weeks to two months have played the best basketball of anyone in the country. They’re playing great right now, so our guys understand the challenge, and we will have to play very well.”
The 63-year-old coach says he’s not happy about having to play someone so dear to him, but said there will be one positive.
“[I’d] much rather go against someone you don’t know as well. It’s always tough with friends,” Kruger said. “We talk every ten days through the course of the year, and I kept telling him that his team was the best. He kept kind of downplaying it, but he’s played so well. And Dana said last week, ‘well, let’s go ahead and both win on Thursday and at least one of us will go to the Final Four.’ So that’s the one good thing that will come from this, one of us will get to the Final Four, but of course whoever goes will feel very badly for the other.”
Kruger spoke about what the #2 seeded Sooners will have to do on the court to stop the region’s #1 seed.
“They do so many things well,” Kruger said. “They get out in transition, you just can’t give them easy buckets. They’re good enough in the half-court, they’re going to score if you give them easy buckets in transition off our turnovers, off our bad shots, and they will be really hard to beat. So we got to do a good job of being good with the ball offensively, so they don’t score off our offense, and then we got to do a good job of getting back defensively, try to limit them to one shot. They do a very good job of pushing it, attacking the boards, so we got our hands full in a lot of ways.”