NCAA 2017: Michigan vs. Oregon Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
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 Ducks

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.


Read our in-depth personnel report here.


  • 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.

Bottom Line

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.

  • gobluemd16

    From all the preview content and from what I know about Oregon, this game seems like it will be a shootout. Whoever goes on a run at the end of a back-and-forth game will be the victor. I wonder how quickly Beilein will go to the small lineup..

  • ChiMan

    Great preview!! So pumped for the game tonight! Dylan, totally hate hijacking this, especially on a game day for an unrelated post but I just saw something on ESPN about Marial Shayok is looking to transfer from Virginia. I believe we offered him at some point. Any chance you think Beilein goes after him? Not sure if we have a strong need at that position. Just curious if we don’t land Bamba if that’s even an option. Go Blue, Win the game tonight!

  • MaizeBlue10

    “Jordan Bell is mobile enough to defend the perimeter.” They have to be scared to switch that 1-5 screen after seeing Moe in the Louisville game. He may take away Walton better than other bigs, but they showed last week they have the patience to dump it down.

    I keep going back to this game feeling like it’s in Michigan’s hands. They’re the team that can try multiple looks to adjust. Oregon can’t go to anything if Michigan finds somethings that works. (Well, unless they try different zone looks but Beilein has had plenty of success against zones) I definitely agree with the preview though where Brooks is the key. If DJ can’t defend Brooks at all, can Irvin slow him down?

    • Yep — that comes down to the bigs making plays again though. Seems like that’s where this game is headed.

  • Richard Howenstein

    IU fan stopping by say Go Blue!

  • UMHoopsFan

    Does seem like Oregon has been a little lucky with their three point defense — they allow an average amount of attempts but their opponents have shot it poorly — which kenpom will tell you is generally “luck.” We might get a fair number of good looks from outside tonight.

    • Good point, actually meant to mention that. They don’t seem to take the 3-point shot away.

      • UMHoopsFan

        My totally anecdotal take from watching the Pac-12 title game backed this up as well, although looking back at the stats, AZ only took 17 3s that game. Thanks for all the preview content, really feeding the jones.

  • MrLG

    Kinda all depends on whether you think the Pac12 s*cks this year, or not. Personally, I think this is a down year for the Pac12, as they have not been impressive in either the NCAA’s or NIT. So I like Michigan’s chances.

    • JMD

      I don’t know how having three elite teams can be considered a “down” year. At least in my opinion, that’s a pretty good year when you have three legit contenders. Regardless, I don’t see how the state of the Pac12 really has anything to do with this game.

      • ChiMan

        Yea, I’m kind of leaning more towards JMD’s assessment here. I’d say getting 3 teams into the Sweet Sixteen plus USC pretty massive upset of SMU is pretty impressive. I think they’re pretty top heavy but saying that the this is a down year for them feels a little harsh….

  • ChiMan

    Whew! If this doesn’t get your pulse going, I’m not sure what will! What a freakin’ AMAZING hype video for tonight!!

  • itsjustaherb

    Michigan needs to get Jordan Bell away from the rim which I imagine they will and attack the basket more than they would normally. Without Bouchard they are very vulnerable now to getting scored on near the hoop. I really hope Michigan doesn’t settle for 3 pointers unless they get great looks because they really should have good opportunities especially if Oregon is going to guard that three point line. Oregon’s PG is also not very athletic and is not quick. Walton or whoever he is guarding needs to take advantage of that mismatch.

  • bobohle

    Dylan; Perfect picture at the top. That will be the look on the Ducks faces when they have a tough time figuring out our offense. Like everyone else can’t wait till game time. GO BLUE!