Upsets shattered brackets this weekend, with Villanova, Louisville and Duke all losing. One team that managed to escape Sunday could be the next top team to fall, however.
The Oregon Ducks are heading back to the Sweet 16 for the second straight year after defeating Rhode Island, 75-72, thanks to the game-tying and game-winning three-point by Tyler Dorsey. With center Chris Boucher out after suffering a season-ending injury in the Pac-12 tournament, the Ducks needed their sophomore guard to come up big, and will require another big game from Dorsey to avoid an upset at the hands of No. 7 Michigan, winners over No. 10 Oklahoma State and No. 2 Louisville.
According to Pomeroy’s college basketball ratings, one of the best indicators of future wins heading into the tournament, Oregon is less than one point per 100 possessions better than Michigan, the lowest difference among any of the upcoming Sweet 16 matchups, giving the Ducks just a 52 percent chance at moving on to the Elite Eight.
The Wolverines can pull of the upset if they take care of the basketball, limit Oregon’s opportunities in transition and force the Ducks to opt for midrange shots rather than open looks from behind the arc.
Against Louisville, Michigan was tenacious on the ball and forced 11 turnovers while surrendering only six of its own, often preventing the Cardinals from finding a rhythm in their half-court sets. Oregon, meanwhile, has a 15.9 percent turnover rate in the half-court during the tournament, placing them 52nd out of the field of 68.
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.
The Ducks also won’t get as many open looks as they have through the first two rounds. Oregon has taken 24 of 32 (75 percent) catch-and-shoot opportunities unguarded, per Synergy Sports, scoring 1.08 points per shot. Michigan, however, has allowed just six of 22 (27 percent) catch-and-shoot attempts without a defender close by.
Michigan is also good at chasing shooters off the three-point line. Combining regular season and tournament play, the Wolverines have allowed opponents to take 28.7 percent of field goals from beyond the three-point line, the eighth-lowest rate in the nation and significantly lower than Oregon’s shot preference, which accounts for more than a third of its shot attempts from long range (38.8 percent). Oregon’s 7-for-16 three-point shooting against Rhode Island was key to Sunday’s victory.
Just 14 percent of brackets in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge have Michigan moving on to the Elite Eight compared to 29.1 percent for Oregon. If Michigan can pull off the upset, it would become the sixth No. 7 seed in tournament history to beat a No. 3. And given some of the statistical red flags, Oregon should definitely be on upset alert.