NCAA Tournament Preview: Oregon Comment Count

Ace March 23rd, 2017 at 12:21 PM


WHAT #20 Michigan (26-11, 10-8 B1G) vs
#16 Oregon (31-5, 16-2 Pac-12)
WHERE Delicious Barbecue Center
Kansas City, Missouri
WHEN 7:09 pm ET, Thursday
LINE 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.

Our Tourney Sponsor: It's not just basketball season; it's buying/refinancing season. We will keep telling you to use HomeSure Lending (NMLS 1161358) for all the reasons you read this site. As we and so many readers have attested, Matt will make the process easy, knows all the tricks, and keeps a small shop that deals with multiple lenders, so he can charge way less than the loan mills and get you approved faster. He can do Michigan, Florida, or Ohio now, and recently opened an office in Ann Arbor.


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.


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.

Pos. # Name Yr. Ht./Wt. %Min %Poss ORtg SIBMIHHAT
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.


Four Factors explanation

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. 


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.


Brian's initial thoughts contains more detail on the player matchups. The Why Not Us mantra is now an MGoShirt. Consume.


UMHoops preview and personnel report.

DJ Wilson on the Dylan Ennis block. Dylan Ennis on the same.

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.



March 23rd, 2017 at 2:40 PM ^

The year was 2013. Michigan basketball was undefeated in January going down to play Ohio State. Kenpom said OSU was going to win, Ace made a spectacle of bucking the Kenpom prediction trend in the game preview column and Burke's 3 to tie at the end rimmed out. This is the MGoBlog origin story of the fully capitalized "WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING AS KENPOM" section.


March 23rd, 2017 at 12:35 PM ^

Hey, just like me!

I just wanted to be a backroom computer nerd, and somehow it morphed into . . . no wait, I'm still just a backroom computer nerd.




March 23rd, 2017 at 12:41 PM ^

I just wanted to teach social studies and be a high school coach, and somehow it morphed to this.

He's being disingenuous here - it takes driving ambition to become a D1 coach. But I'm glad we have a coach like him.


March 23rd, 2017 at 1:02 PM ^

have to figure out you are good at it first.  I think it is clear that at some point his aspirations changed once it became apparent that he was really good at coaching basketball but I don't think this sounds disingenous at all if you consider that he is probably referring to his late 20s.  That could very easily have been how he saw himself at the time.

Ali G Bomaye

March 23rd, 2017 at 1:38 PM ^

Beilein has been successful at every single place he's coached.

Despite that, he stayed at a JUCO school for four years, at D-II Le Moyne for nine years, at Canisius for five years, at Richmond for five years, and at Richmond for five years. A man with "driving ambition" almost certainly could have moved up the ladder much faster, if he were just after fame and riches.


March 23rd, 2017 at 2:02 PM ^

and win with time travel, per mo wagner.  

EDIT:  if you haven't read the mo article, do it.  outstanding writing and content by a 19 yr old german, writing of course in english.  great article. 

Pepto Bismol

March 23rd, 2017 at 1:39 PM ^

I'm expecting the Blues though.  The teenager in me wants to see the Big Game Maize unis, but they seemed to have rallied behind the whole "blue" collar, underdog thing.  It's been all blue (except for the practice jersey game) during the win streak.


March 23rd, 2017 at 1:49 PM ^

Technically, it's been all blue because we've been the lower seed since the practice jersey game.  Except against OSU where we wore white.  Higher seed typically chooses home jerseys.  

But I like the thought.


March 23rd, 2017 at 3:10 PM ^

unis as the away team if the home team is wearing whites like Louisville did (and a couple of the BTT opponents I believe as well).  We chose to wear the blues and I say stick to what's working.  Oregon as the home team gets the choice and they'll probably go with their super ugly highlighter yellow unis and make it moot anyway.


March 23rd, 2017 at 1:30 PM ^

I'm swinging wildely between being super confident and absolutely paranoid about this game.  Which I think just means I have no idea how I feel.


March 23rd, 2017 at 1:38 PM ^

Am I the only one who saw Reggie Miller is the analyst and cursed to himself?  I'll be at work for the first half, and will probably end up muting him for the second half.


March 23rd, 2017 at 1:48 PM ^

The common refrain about Beilein from opposing coaches is that his teams are extremely difficult to prepare for. The emergence of Moritz Wagner as a legitimate scoring threat in the paint adds yet another wrinkle to the offense. Let's hope Michigan can fluster Oregon with a combination of deadly shooting and Wagner exploiting opportunities in the paint created by Oregon's focus on stopping Michigan's sharpshooters.

Michigan by 5.