Sweet 16: Midwest Region Preview

Michigan prevented the region from being completely chalk in the Sweet 16, but the 7-seeded Wolverines’ narrow victory over Louisville make them a dangerous team regardless of their seed.

Standing in their way will be the other top seeds in the Midwest, making for an intriguing blend of Sweet 16 matchups.

No. 3 Oregon Ducks v. No. 7 Michigan Wolverines

The hot shooting Wolverines will be put to the test by the extremely athletic Oregon Ducks. Michigan’s incredible run through the Big Ten has seeped over to the tournament, where the Wolverines have had two impressive offensive performances thus far. Oregon has played without Chris Boucher through the early rounds, and were pushed to the brink in their last game against a tough Rhode Island team. Both teams are playing an inspired brand of basketball, making for a potentially great game.

Michigan is led by a balanced starting line-up, having gotten major contributions from multiple players during their now 7-game win streak. D.J. Wilson’s versatility carried them through the Big Ten tournament, creating matchup nightmares all across the floor. Derrick Walton Jr., Zak Irvin, and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman all hit timely shots in their win against Oklahoma State. And it was Moritz Wagner that was the catalyst in their latest win over the second-seeded Louisville Cardinals.

The Wolverines hurt you from the outside, but Wagner’s latest performance has proven that their offense can attack in a number of ways. Whether that be launching threes or beating players off the dribble, Michigan has been a juggernaut offense over the past month. Their impending matchup with the Ducks brings some intrigue though, as Oregon might be one of the most well-equipped teams personnel wise to keep up with Michigan.

Jordan Bell, Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks are rangy defensively, and their versatility on defense allows the Ducks to switch on everything against a Wolverines team that likes to play 4-out. Dorsey is coming off a hot shooting night (9 for 10 from the field), and will be Oregon’s answer on the offensive end to Michigan’s scoring barrage.

The key to the game will be how much will Oregon’s length disrupt Michigan’s shooters. If they Ducks can contest outside jumpers, and clean the defensive glass, it could derail the Wolverines’ Cinderella story. For Michigan we’ll be keying in on how they play in their half court offense. If the Wolverines are shooting early in the shot clock, it will play to Oregon’s benefit. They might be better off being patient and working for the best shot available, but also getting out in transition for easy looks to mitigate the length of the Ducks.

No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks v. No. 4 Purdue Boilermakers

Purdue faces off against another team of completely contrasting styles on the three-point juggernaut Kansas Jayhawks. This tantalizing Sweet 16 match-up between the Big Ten and Big 12 champions will be the classic bout of when enormous size meets elite athleticism. The Boilermakers make their living off of cleaning the glass with the giant duo of Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas, while the Jayhawks are content firing away outside shots with Frank Mason, Devonte Graham and Josh Jackson.

It will be a chess match for much of the game, as both coaches will attempt to implement their style over the other. Haas has been huge (pun intended) asset for Purdue throughout the year, and his playing time in this game will be something to monitor. Running lineups with both Swanigan and Haas will be susceptible to match-up problems for Kansas.

Purdue going big would mean one or the other would have to guard Svi Mykhailiuk which is a tough cover for either big man. If Haas can make up for it by dominating the glass on both ends then he should find minutes, but don’t expect the twin towers to be occupying the floor together for too many minutes at a time.

If the Boilermakers can impose their size over the game, then they have a chance at upsetting the top-seed, but if Kansas is able to get out into the open and floor and rain three-point bombs it will be a long night for Swanigan and company.

Source: Brian Spurlock, Kelley L. Cox, Kevin Jairaj /USA TODAY Sports