#20 Michigan (26-11, 10-8 B1G) vs
#16 Oregon (31-5, 16-2 Pac-12)
Delicious Barbecue Center
Kansas City, Missouri
|WHEN||7:09 pm ET, Thursday|
Oregon -1 (KenPom)
Michigan -1.5 (Vegas)
PBP: Kevin Harlan
Analyst: Reggie Miller & Dan Bonner
Right: I can't possibly hate on Puddles, even if Oregon won't acknowledge that's his real name.
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John Beilein gave a very John Beilein quote yesterday:
Q. This came up in Indiana and it seems to with you a lot this time of year. For casual fans outside the midwest you're not as appreciated as the brand name coaches, Krzyzewski, Williams, Calipari, Pitino and Boeheim. Do you care?
JOHN BEILEIN: I don't care. Our program is about Michigan and it's about those kids. I don't care about that. I came up a lot different than everybody else and I am blessed to be in these situations. I don't want to be measured by those. I would love to be measured by, what are those kids like on the court and how they represent our university and what are they like many years later and not about the trophies. The trophies will come.
I just wanted to teach social studies and be a high school coach, and somehow it morphed to this. But I really want it to be about those teams and the University of Michigan.
Perhaps the most John Beilein quote, really.
Anyway, the topic of Michigan's great performances so far in neutral-site games came up in MGoSlack this morning, and I ventured over to Bart Torvik's site to see just how the Wolverines stacked up to the rest of the country in such games:
Limited sample size and all: hot damn. Oregon is 31st with a 7-2 record, 117.0 adjOE, and 93.7 adjDE.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||31||Dylan Ennis||Sr.||6'2, 195||79||19||110||No|
|Athletic grad transfer with solid outside shot, higher TO than assist rate.|
|G||3||Payton Pritchard||Fr.||6'2, 200||72||16||113||No|
|Takes more threes than twos, decent assist rate that just edges out TO rate.|
|G||5||Tyler Dorsey||So.||6'4, 195||74||21||116||Not At All|
|Dangerous catch-and-shoot threat has 20+ points in five straight games.|
|F||24||Dillon Brooks||Jr.||6'7, 225||54||31||115||Not At All|
|Can and will score from anywhere. Offense runs through him.|
|F||1||Jordan Bell||Jr.||6'9, 225||72||19||120||Very|
|Excellent finisher, rebounder, shot-blocker. Skilled passer from high post.|
|G||2||Casey Benson||Jr.||6'3, 185||52||12||120||Not At All|
|Low usage. Turnover prone for a Just A Shooter™ type.|
|C||35||Kavell Bigby-Williams||Jr.||6'11, 230||23||20||99||Very|
|Good rebounder and shot-blocker, but huge downgrade from Bell on offense.|
|F||11||Keith Smith||Fr.||6'7, 205||11||19||107||Very|
|Hasn't played >6 mins since January. Tight rotation with Boucher out.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Oregon had one of the most impressive regular seasons in college basketball, going undefeated at home, falling just three points short of being UCLA at Pauley Pavilion, and almost entirely avoiding iffy losses (depending upon how you feel about #69 Georgetown and #73 Colorado). They took a significant hit, however, when center Chris Boucher tore his ACL in the Pac-12 seminifal. Oregon's defense ranks first in the country in block rate; Boucher was the most important part of that, ranking #10 in the country individually, and as a 35% three-point shooter he was also the Ducks' most versatile scoring big man.
While Oregon's offense has continued to produce at a high level in Boucher's absence, the defense has experienced a significant dropoff. In the three games since, they've allowed 1.14 points per possession against the #17, #70, and #59 offenses; they'd led the Pac-12 by ceding 0.97 PPP in conference play. That recent stretch includes a Pac-12 title game loss to Arizona in which the Wildcats used high screens to generate mismatches and easy buckets with regularity. I know I'm not the only one who likes the sound of that.
Even without Bouchard, Oregon remains a very dangerous team. It all starts with Dillon Brooks, their nominal power forward and one of the better all-around offensive players in the country. Brooks boasts shooting splits of 55/41/73 (2P%/3P%/FT%) while taking a third of their shots when he's on the floor; he also leads the team in assist rate. As his shot chart indicates, he can score with efficiency from wherever he decides to shoot (via UMHoops):
Brooks attains those buckets in a wide variety of ways. He's great off the dribble, whether that comes via isolation or a high screen. At 6'7", 225, he can bully smaller defenders at the rim or use his quickness and the constant threat of his outside shot to blow by bigger guys. He's going to be a major test for both DJ Wilson and Zak Irvin, both of whom will spend time guarding Brooks depending on both teams' lineups.
The #2 scoring option is wing Tyler Dorsey, a 40% three-point shooter on mostly catch-and-shoot looks who can also exploit hard closeouts by getting to, and finishing at, the rim. He can be a boom-or-bust player; recently he's been booming, surpassing 20 points in each of the last five games.
With the offense largely running through Brooks, Oregon doesn't really have a true point guard. Dylan Ennis, the Villanova grad transfer who once blocked a DJ Wilson dunk attempt, is a solid three-point shooter who becomes less effective when forced to work within the arc; he makes 47% of his twos despite getting a large chunk of his shots at the rim and his turnover rate outstrips his assist rate. Ennis is a tough defender; he's athletic—ask DJ—and gets some Walton-like boards. He's joined in the backcourt by freshman Payton Pritchard, who fits a very similar offensive profile while settling for more two-point jumpers.
Starting center Jordan Bell shoulders the rebounding load, especially with Boucher out, and provides good rim protection. He does a lot more than just the dirty work; he makes 71% of his shots at the rim, per hoop-math, and only half of those attempts are assisted. He's also a skilled passer, though he's turnover-prone. While Bell is an athletic big man, Michigan will try to do what Arizona did to him—draw him away from the hoop via the high screen and look to exploit the mismatches or open space depending on whether Oregon switches (as they did often) or tries to hedge and recover.
Boucher's injury has tightened Oregon's rotation to essentially seven players. Guard Casey Benson is a low-usage Just A Shooter™ type who makes 42% of his threes but loses some efficiency due to an elevated turnover rate. Kavell Bigby-Williams will spell Bell at center, and Oregon will play both on occasion, with Bell sliding to the four to provide dangerous weakside help. While Bigby-Williams rebounds and blocks shots at almost identical rates to Bell, he's a major downgrade on offense; he shoots 48% on exclusively two-pointers, hits 62% of his free throws, and commits a high rate of turnovers without any of the passing that Bell provides. The Ducks will mostly play small ball.
If an eighth man gets into the game, it'll most likely be a short stint from freshman wing Keith Smith, who mostly stays out of the way—he's attempted one shot since mid-January.
Oregon's offense is a very effective drive-and-kick attack; they're 18th nationally in two-point percentage and 45th on threes, and 57% of their baskets are assisted. They're an above-average offensive rebounding team, and while that disappeared in the conference title game, they bounced back by grabbing around half their misses in tourney wins over Iona and Rhode Island. They prefer to play at a high tempo with lots of transition buckets; one of these stats isn't going to hold up:
In transition, Michigan has allowed opponents to score 39.1 percent of the time in the tournament, an improvement over their regular-season performance (46.3 percent) and a potential stumbling block for Oregon, who has scored almost two-thirds of the time in transition (63.6 percent) against their first two opponents. No other remaining tournament team has had better results on the break. Take that element away from Oregon, and it’s a big blow.
One of the drivers of Oregon's transition play is forcing an above-average number of turnovers; Michigan has done a remarkable job all year, and especially this tournament, of avoiding those. The Ducks defense has a rather unusual combination of a high block rate—the best in the nation, in fact—and a very low foul rate. That shot-blocking has largely disappeared minus Boucher; Oregon had three blocks against Arizona and just two in each of their NCAA tourney games. As mentioned above, the defense has dropped off significantly after Boucher exited the lineup.
Screen, read, attack. Despite not having the five-out threat Michigan's offense provides, Arizona's Pac-12 title game performance looked a lot like M's postseason run. Oregon spent much of the game switching on every screen and got burned when the Wildcats attacked those mismatches, especially on the interior. Backup big man Chance Comanche, who had six double-digit point totals in two seasons, hit 5/6 twos as the Ducks either failed to account for the roll man or gave him too much room to hit midrange jumpers. When Oregon tried changing up their ball-screen defense, they often missed assignments. Michigan should be able to run their normal offense and produce at a high level.
Force Brooks into midrange looks. While Dillon Brooks is a skilled scorer from anywhere on the court, he can settle for two-point jumpers when he's run off the line and his defender stays in solid position. Brooks will hit an obnoxious number of those shots; they still won't be worth three points, nor will they be high-percentage looks at the rim. This will be a huge test primarily for DJ Wilson, whose length should be enough to dissuade Brooks from taking too many threes; Wilson has to be able to move his feet and at least stay close enough to Brooks on drives that he can challenge shots at the rim. That's no easy task. Like Derrick Walton, Brooks utilizes a hard jab step to keep defenders off balance, and he can finish at the rim going in either direction off the dribble.
Stick to Dorsey. This is where the 3>2 strategy really comes into play. Brooks is going to get his points, though hopefully with less efficiency than he does normally. Oregon gets really dangerous, however, when defenses collapse on Brooks drives and he can kick it out to open shooters, especially Tyler Dorsey. Zak Irvin, who should draw that matchup most of the time, can't help too much. Ceding a layup is better than letting Dorsey continue his torrid shooting from beyond the arc, and Dorsey isn't just a shooter—if Michigan's defenders are closing out late, he'll get to the rim and finish.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Oregon by 1.
KenPom's projections don't take Boucher's injury into account. That said, the Brooks/Dorsey combo is one of the more dangerous that Michigan has faced all year. Michigan has been able to stay afloat defensively by running sharpshooters off the three-point line; unlike many such players they've seen of late, however, both Brooks and Dorsey are high-percentage finishers at the rim. Keeping up is going to require another great offensive performance.
MLive's Brendan Quinn catches up with NBA front office types for the latest on Wagner/Wilson/Walton's draft stock.
NYTimes article on Michigan using new technology to manage players' workload.
A must-read Moe Wagner article in the Players Tribune on the plane crash:
Our plane is crashing, we’re out of control, we’re on the runway going some outrageous speed, and our entire team — all of Michigan Basketball, plus families, almost 120 people total — is in serious trouble. Our plane is literally going down.
And I’m thinking about….
Desert islands, and monsters, and time travel.