SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The NCAA hasn't had a good year. In fact, it's been on a poor run for a few years now. Still, the men's basketball tournament is the organization's annual shining beacon. It's a time when the term "NCAA" is used and not immediately preceded -- or followed -- by an expletive.
Ah, but even here the NCAA can't catch a break. As in: Did you hear about the tournament selection committee giving Oregon a No. 12 seed? Yeah, a 26-win team -- 4-1 versus the top 25 -- that is fresh off a Pac-12 tournament title run.
Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford managed to grin Thursday when asked about the Ducks' controversial seeding. His fifth-seeded team had just been dominated by Oregon 68-55 in a second-round Midwest Regional whipping.
"We ran into a very hot team," he said. "A very hot team."
Were the Ducks poorly seeded by the committee?
"I think they would admit to that," Ford said.
The Ducks used an 8-0 run to take an early lead, and the Cowboys didn't put up much of a challenge in the second half, never cutting the margin to single digits.
Oregon, now 27-8, won with dogged defense, rebounding and superior depth. It shut down Oklahoma State's All-America guard Marcus Smart, and the offensively challenged Cowboys struggled to pick up the slack.
Smart, who hurt his right hand in the second half, had 14 points, but shot 5-of-13 from the field. He had more turnovers (five) than assists (four).
"I let my team down," the freshman said.
Before the game, the story was how the Ducks' smaller guards would be able to deal with the physical Smart. After the game, the story was the Ducks' superior quickness.
Said Ducks guard Dominic Artis, who had four steals: "We tried to keep him real uncomfortable with what he likes to do."
Oregon, which will face No. 4 seed Saint Louis in the round of 32 on Saturday at HP Pavilion, outrebounded the Cowboys 44-30, including a 14-4 advantage on the offensive glass. Coach Dana Altman called those numbers "the difference in the game."
"That was the one area where we felt we could dominate the game," he said.
The Ducks' depth was also an advantage. While the Cowboys looked lost with Smart struggling, Oregon thrived despite leading scorer E.J. Singler and Pac-12 tournament Most Outstanding Player Johnathan Loyd combining for just 13 points. Freshman Damyean Dotson offered up a game-high 17 points -- 3-for-9 from 3-point range -- and Carlos Emory added 12. Senior Arsalan Kazemi had 11 and, more important, led the charge on the boards with 17 rebounds.
"Sometimes my teammates tell me I grab their rebounds," the Iranian-born forward said. "I apologize to them."
The Ducks' bench outscored Oklahoma State's 17-9. They also had a 12-6 advantage in second-chance points.
As for the 12th seed, Oregon had downplayed the subject during pregame news conferences, essentially saying it was just glad to be in the tournament. After all, the Ducks hadn't even received an invitation since 2008, last winning a game during an Elite Eight run in 2007.
Even after the victory, Altman didn't act like a wronged party.
"We downplayed it because we weren't going to change it," he said. "There was nothing we could do about it."
Well, other than beat the 5-seed by 13 points and look like a team that still might not yet be done in the tourney.