SACRAMENTO — Dylan Ennis hopes to play against some ex-teammates in the NCAA Tournament.
Dana Altman isn’t as excited about seeing his former school early in the bracket.
The Oregon senior point guard and coach could both run into old friends during March Madness.
Ennis spent his freshman season at Rice before playing two seasons at Villanova, including 2015 when the Wildcats were a No. 1 seed before losing to North Carolina State in the second round. After joining the Ducks as a graduate transfer last season, he took a medical redshirt after missing all but two games with a foot injury. The Wildcats won the national title with a 77-74 win over North Carolina.
“The storybook ending would be Villanova against Oregon in the national championship game,” Ennis said. “If that happened, it would be great.”
That scenario is possible after the Ducks (29-5) earned a No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region and a first-round match-up against Iona (22-12) today at 11 a.m. at Golden1Center. Villanova (31-3) sits on the opposite side of the bracket from the Ducks as the No. 1 seed in the East. It opened against Mt. Saint Mary’s (20-15) at 4:10 p.m. Thursday.
Ennis averaged 5.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in his first season at Villanova in 2013-14 before averaging 9.9 points as a junior. He has started all 34 games for the Ducks this season while averaging 11.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
“Obviously, I did go to Villanova longer than here,” Ennis said. “I’m a Wildcat and a Duck, but a Duck first.”
Despite missing most of last season and watching his former team win the national title, Ennis has no regrets about transferring or having to wait to earn a sixth year of eligibility before playing a full season for the Ducks.
“I wanted to have an impact and have the ball in my hand, and coach put that trust in me to lead this team,” he said. “I have done all that and set myself up to be a national-title contender. All I wished for happened here.”
Altman spent 16 years coaching at Creighton, including seven trips to the NCAA Tournament, before being hired by Oregon in 2010. Creighton, a No. 6 seed in the Midwest, plays Rhode Island following the Oregon-Iona game with the winners meeting in the second round Sunday.
“I will worry about that if we are fortunate to advance,” Altman said. “I am happy for Creighton. When you spent 16 years at a place you always cheer for them.”
Altman worked under Creighton athletic director Bruce Rasmussen and had assistant Darian DeVries on his staff.
In his first season at Oregon, Altman’s Ducks defeated his former team in the championship game of the College Basketball Invitational.
Ducks flock to Sacramento
Oregon is expected to have a large cheering section at the tournament.
In addition to fans making the daylong drive from Oregon, Sacramento is home to more than 2,000 Oregon alums, according to KCRA-TV.
“I fully expect it’s going to be at least half-full with Ducks alone, if not three-quarters,” Brian Wickes, president of the UO Alumni Sacramento Ducks booster club, told the television station.
The Oregon Alumni Association is planning a couple of events for fans in town for the game.
There was a pep rally Thursday at New Helvetia Brewing Company. Fans are invited to join cheerleaders and the band to send the team off from its hotel at Embassy Suites at 9 a.m. today.
Oregon returns to Sacramento 15 years after it began an Elite Eight run with wins over Montana and Wake Forest at Arco Arena. The Golden1Center opened in October as the new home of the Sacramento Kings.
Behind the curtain
For the second year in a row, Oregon will be part of NCAA March Madness Confidential, a behind-the-scenes look at the tournament hosted by Turner Sports and CBS Sports. Florida, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Wisconsin, and Virginia Tech are also included in the shows that will air on TBS, TNT, truTV and CBS throughout the tournament.