No. 3 seed Oregon (31-5) vs. No. 7 seed Michigan (26-11)
Thursday, March 23, 7:09 p.m.
Michigan has been a team on a mission since a plane crash during the Big 10 Conference Tournament two weeks ago nearly left their postseason in doubt.
Since then the Wolverines have won the Conference tournament, and are on their way to the Sweet 16 by defeating No. 10 seed Oklahoma State and No. 3 seed Louisville.
Led by 6 foot guard Derrick Walton Jr., the Wolverines commit the fewest turnovers in the country (9.4 per game), a skill that will come in handy against Oregon, according to UPI. Michigan is a team that loves to shoot the three and averaged 38.6 from behind the arc throughout the season.
Although Walton Jr. is the star he has a very strong supporting cast. Sophomore forward Moritz Wagner stepped up against Louisville, more than doubling his regular season average of 12 points per game with 26 points picking up the slack for Walton Jr’s poor performance against the Cardinals.
Michigan is a very well-balanced team, with four players averaging between 11.0 and 15.4 points per game.
Michigan last reached the Elite Eight in 2014 before being bounced by a Kentucky team that would go on to lose in the National Championship game to. Current Wolverines Walton Jr., Zak Irvin and Mark Donnal started and played in that 2014 game, so the postseason pedigree is there for Michigan.
Oregon has taken a slightly different path to the Sweet 16. After losing the Pac-12 Conference Tournament final to No.2 seed Arizona the Ducks came into the tournament as No.3 seed.
In their first two tournament games, the Ducks took on No.14 seed Iona and No. 11 seed Rhode Island. The Ducks barely edged out the Rams 75-72 in a game that came down to the wire. Oregon’s Tyler Dorsey scored 27 points on 9-of-10 shooting (including 4-of-5 from 3-point range) in the win. In addition to the 6-4 guard Dorsey, Oregon is also led by Pac-12 Player of the Year Dillon Brooks. The 6-7 forward has averaged 16.4 points per game this season.
Oregon is currently the 20th best team in defensive efficiency (per teamrankings.com), which has a lot to do with 6-10 power forward Chris Boucher who averaged 2.5 blocks per game this season. Boucher went to down injured with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the Pac-12 semifinal and has left the ducks with a gaping hole in the paint.
Jordan Bell who now leads the Ducks with 8.1 rebounds per game and averages 2.1 blocks is tasked with stepping up for Boucher.
Michigan is 4-0 all-time against Oregon on the hardwood, according to Brandon Quinn of MLive. Dorsey scored 27 points on 9-of-10 shooting (including 4-of-5 from 3-point range) in the second-round win over Rhode Island. “Nobody plays harder than Brooks, the Pac-12 Player of the Year. Oregon’s margin of error is slim without forward Chris Boucher (ACL), but there is still Final Four potential here,” according to Anthony Gimino of The Sports Xchange.
This story was reported and compiled by Antonio Salazar and Annika Schmidt, University of Connecticut journalism and communications students.