Michigan's offense is operating at a very high level, and the 7-seed Wolverines are actually favored by the oddsmakers.
Injuries have been a theme of the NCAA tournament so far and Duke was bitten in the opening round when point guard Kyra Lambert went down with a torn ACL. The Wolverines ripped off conference tournament wins over Purdue, Minnesota and Wisconsin to earn the league's automatic bid into the Big Dance.
OR has taken a slightly different path to the Sweet 16. They navigated what was ultimately the second-toughest schedule in NCAA Division I basketball, one of the most hard slates in Rick Pitino's time at U of L. And they did it with two sophomore stars who were reserves last season, plus a rotating frontcourt quartet and one true point guard on the roster. OR still has powerful forwards in Jordan Bell and Dylan Ennis, but Michigan's ability to stretch the floor with their bigs does give them an advantage. However, the Ducks will be without Chris Boucher.
After romping over Iona 93-77 in the opener, OR was pushed to the limit by 11th seeded Rhode Island as it had to rally from a 10-point deficit in the second half for a 75-72 victory.
Regardless, the story of the final 20 minutes was the loss of Dwayne Benjamin. Even as recently as 2014, the National Championship was played between a 7-seed and an 8-seed.
In the First Round, Michigan relied on its perimeter play to out-gun Oklahoma State.
We need to take a moment to pay respect to the past as we prepare to move forward.More news: Villanova-Mount St. Mary's in NCAA Tournament
ESPN's BPI predicts that the contest between No. 3 OR and No. 7 MI will be the closest of the eight games part of the NCAA Tournament's third round. Still, Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey and company survived the first weekend of the tournament with victories over No. 14 seed Iona and No. 11 seed Rhode Island in the process. That puts the offensive onus on the blocks against a thin OR front court.
The fact that MI has made it this far should not be taken for granted. "You just know your college career is over". The Ducks rarely commit turnovers, ranking No. 4 nationally in percentage of possessions with a giveaway. However, we'll see if they are up to the task defensively with Boucher out of the lineup. "But Michigan was just a better fit". While limiting turnovers will be crucial for OR preventing that, so too will run-outs on long misses. The Wildcats are projected to win that one by just 1.5 points.
So we can throw out the myth that MI lives by the three and dies by the three. Ask the Arizona Wildcats how their first conference loss was when the Ducks shot 64 percent from beyond the arc. Altman saw the same thing and yelled at Dorsey to shoot.
Then after Oklahoma State scored four straight, Walton drew a foul on 3-point shot with 4.3 seconds remaining and made all three free throws to give MI a 41-40 edge at halftime. The Wolverines shoot the nation's eighth-best 2-point field-goal percentage.
Asked about his recent assertiveness after OR beat Rhode Island on Sunday, Dorsey said the key was not to think about scoring.
Last season, OR looked like it could finally break through to college basketball's final weekend after beating Duke to reach the Elite Eight, but the No. 1-seeded Ducks fell to Oklahoma, and the Sooners danced to the Final Four. Wagner immediately scored on a layup and sparked a 10-2 run to put MI ahead, 28-27, with 5:03 left in the half.