Michigan vs. Oregon: Who has the edge?
James Hawkins of The Detroit News breaks down Thursday’s Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament game between Michigan and Oregon.
Freshman Payton Pritchard and sixth-year senior Dylan Ennis receive the bulk of the minutes at the one and two, respectively, for Oregon. Pritchard isn’t relied upon to do much scoring and acts more as a facilitator, averaging 7.7 points and 3.8 assists per game. Ennis has the experience to make up for Pritchard and is much more effective out on the perimeter (42.5 percent shooter, 36.8 percent on 3-pointers). Reserve guard Casey Benson is a catch-and-shoot player who isn’t a major scoring threat, but is capable of knocking down open looks. Michigan’s Derrick Walton Jr. is the heartbeat of the team and continues to come through in the clutch. Even if he Oregon’s defense tries to take him out the game, he’s proven he can make an impact in other ways. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman’s defense could be the X-factor, and his ability to aggressively attack the rim in transition is a major plus in a game that should feature up-and-down play. Edge: Michigan
Most of Oregon’s damage will be done by forward Dillon Brooks and wing Tyler Dorsey. Brooks, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, is a load to handle and can score from anywhere on the court. He’s a downhill threat who shoots 40.9 percent from deep and leads the Ducks at 16.4 points per game. Dorsey has blossomed into Oregon’s star and has been on an absolute tear, averaging 23.6 points on 64.6 percent shooting over the past five games. Forward Jordan Bell, the Pac-12 Defender of the Year, anchors the defense without top shot blocker Chris Boucher out due to injury. Bell is an underrated passer who averages 2.1 blocks and thrives around the rim. Michigan’s Moritz Wagner and D.J. Wilson are both coming off huge offensive performances and should get plenty of opportunities to score against Oregon’s undersized big men. Zak Irvin continues to come through in key stretches and has been steady throughout the postseason, averaging 11.7 points on 56.3 percent shooting over the past six games. Edge: Oregon
Oregon to test Michigan defense that’s found its way
This is familiar territory for Michigan and Oregon, who have both reached the Sweet 16 for the third time in five seasons. Michigan coach John Beilein is 3-1 all-time in the Sweet 16 and Oregon coach Dana Altman is 1-1. And while Michigan enters on a seven-game win streak and wins in 12 of its past 14 games, Oregon has been equally impressive by winning 10 of its last 11. The Ducks like to push the ball and led the Pac-12 in transition offense and defense. They’re also a balanced team that ranks 16th nationally in offensive efficiency and 25th in defensive efficiency. While Michigan’s transition defense leaves a lot to be desired, its offense ranks third in offensive efficiency and will give Oregon’s defense fits. Edge: Michigan
If there’s one thing Michigan has proven over its first two NCAA Tournament wins, it’s that the Wolverines can adapt and adjust to their opponent. Without shot blocker Chris Boucher, Oregon has turned to a small ball approach that will test Moritz Wagner and D.J. Wilson’s ability to defend smaller, quicker forwards. But once it starts getting this deep into March, guard play rises to the top and Michigan’s Derrick Walton Jr. is playing like a man on a mission. Michigan 74, Oregon 71