|Who: No. 7 Michigan (26-11, 10-8 B1G) vs. No. 3 Oregon (31-5, 16-2 B12)|
|Where: Sprint Center (Kansas City, MO)|
|When: 7:09 p.m., Thursday, March 23rd, 2017|
Michigan is a 1-point favorite tonight as it faces the No. 3 seeded Oregon Ducks. The Ducks have lost just three games since Thanksgiving, when they were still easing star forward Dillon Brooks back into the lineup, but have been a trendy upset pick since losing their reserve big man, and No. 3 scorer, Chris Boucher to an ACL injury.
Despite the loss of Boucher, this is a team that tied for the Pac 12 regular season crown and didn’t lose a game at home all season. The Ducks blasted No. 2 seed Arizona at home by 27 and split with UCLA. Arizona got the best of Oregon in the conference finals, but even that game was decided by just three points.
Four Oregon rotation players played critical roles on last year’s team, which lost to Oklahoma in the Elite Eight, and will be looking to take the next step this year in Kansas City.
The most-important question when examining Oregon’s resume is hard to answer: how much worse is the defense without Chris Boucher. The last three games that Oregon played without Boucher are three of its worst six defensive performances of the season. But they also were against Iona, Rhode Island and Arizona — all relatively solid competition.
On the year, Oregon ranked 25th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Ducks ranked 1st nationally in percentage of two-point shots blocked and 13th in free throw attempts allowed — an impressive combination. The loss of Boucher (the No. 10 shot-blocker in the country) should have at least some negative effect on those numbers.
Oregon had the best defense in the Pac 12 at .97 points per possession allowed and it ranked 2nd in eFG% defense, 2nd in turnover rate (with a higher block and steal rate than anyone else in the league) and 2nd in FTA/FGA allowed. The only weakness was on the defensive glass where it ranked just 9th in the league.
Defensively, the Ducks hit all of the right marks in their Synergy profile as well. They grade out in the top-10 percentiles of transition defense, half court defense, isolation defense and the top-20 percentile against he ball screen. One moment of weakness could be against the roll man, where the Ducks grade out in just the 29th percentile.
Maybe Boucher’s injury has had a crippling effect on the Oregon defense, but if not the numbers are very impressive across the board.
The Oregon offense ranks 16th nationally and has scored at least a point per possession in 24 of its last 25 games. The Ducks had some early offensive issues as they were without Brooks and working to reintegrate him into the lineup, but they had the No. 2 offense in the Pac 12 at 1.18 points per trip.
Oregon was the best shooting team in the Pac 12, boasting a 58.5 eFG% with 54.7% two-point shooting and 42.4% three-point shooting in league play. Those are really good numbers and better than Michigan’s 57.3 eFG% in league play. This team can shoot it and the five guards that rotate between the four perimeter spots in Oregon’s offense all shoot 37% from three or better.
The Duck offense features a lot of dribble hand-off motion to create dribble penetration and kick action. Oregon will spread the floor and try to isolate in the middle of the court with shooters on the perimeter.
Oregon only ranks 241st in adjusted tempo, but their faster offensive possessions (110th) and longer defensive possessions (323rd) speak to their ability to control the pace of a game and pick their spots in transition. As noted in the First Look, they are a very effective transition offense.
- Contain Dillon Brooks: Brooks is a beast — averaging 16 points per game and ranking as one of the best ISO scorers in the country — and I think he’s a bad match-up for Michigan. I think Brooks presents some of the same kind of problems for DJ Wilson that Miles Bridges did in the sense that he’s strong enough to put a shoulder into Wilson’s chest and quick enough to get around him. He’s probably stronger and more skilled, but not as athletic as Bridges overall. This is a match-up that I think could cause the Wolverines to play small and give Zak Irvin a try, but slowing down Brooks has to be a priority for the Wolverines.
- Adjust to changing defenses: Oregon will play man, it will play zone, it will soft press, it will switch between zone and man on the same possession. Michigan can score effectively against just about any defense in the country (South Carolina has been the only true outlier), but the ability of Michigan’s guards to identify and adjust to the different defensive looks will be critical.
- Big man mismatches: Michigan has done a masterful job of exploiting frontcourt mismatches down the stretch this year. The Wolverines have found Walton when he can attack a switched big, DJ Wilson or Moritz Wagner in the pick and pop. They’ve played the right cards, but Oregon seems to have the personnel where Brooks is strong enough to defend the post and Jordan Bell is mobile enough to defend the perimeter. How will the Wolverines adjust? That might determine whether their season goes on.
- Foul trouble: Both of these teams do a great of not fouling and aren’t great at getting to the free throw line. They also both have incredibly short benches and will need their starters on the floor.
KenPom projects a 71-70 Oregon victory, giving the Wolverines a 48% chance at the upset. Michigan is a 1-point favorite in Las Vegas and considering that KenPom probably hasn’t fully adjusted for Boucher’s absence, this appears to be about as close to a toss-up as you can get.
The Wolverines have won 7 in a row and are just two away from a trip to Arizona, but this one could go either way.