Oregon is returning to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season following a thrilling, 69-68, victory over No. 7 Michigan in the Sweet 16 in Kansas City on Thursday night.
In a game in which neither team could fully grasp control of the game, it came down to the wire. Michigan held a 3-point lead with two minutes to play. Jordan Bell, who was unquestionably the deciding factor in this contest, came up with the first of several critical hustle plays down the stretch. He knifed in on a missed free throw, for the second-chance bucket, cutting the deficit to one.
On the ensuing Michigan possession, Bell didn’t block it but affected Derrick Walton Jr.’s shot enough to force the miss. Tyler Dorsey, the other hero for the Ducks, continued his stellar play this month with a go-ahead layup after he spun through the Wolverine defense. Bell’s close out on D.J. Wilson sent his 3-point attempt way off the mark. Bell would corral another offensive rebound on the other end of the floor, and while Dylan Ennis left the door open for Michigan following another missed free throw, Bell, deservedly, rebounded Walton’s miss as time ran out.
“Do whatever you can to win,” Bell told reporters after the game. “Me, get every rebound, offense or defense, help my team out as much as possible.”
Bell had 16 points and 13 rebounds. Tyler Dorsey poured in 20 points. Walton Jr., who front-rimmed a potential game-winner at the buzzer, ended his collegiate career with stat-line of 20 points, eight assists, and five rebounds. Zak Irvin added 19.
Dillon Brooks is without a doubt the star, but Bell and Dorsey round out a big three that could lead the Ducks to Phoenix.
Before the start of the Pac-12 Tournament championship game on March 11, Oregon announced that Chris Boucher would miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. How would this effect Oregon’s defense days before it began its quest for a Final Four?
Bell has helped answer those questions on Thursday night. He’s a big reason why Oregon outscored Michigan, 34-16, in points in the paint. But his greatest impact was how he slowed down the two-headed monster of Moe Wagner and D.J. Wilson, two forwards whose increased production is a big reason why Michigan’s unlikely run extended into the second weekend of the tournament. The duo scored a combined 19 points off 7-of-20 shooting.
The other for Oregon was the continued offensive tear of Dorsey. In six postseason games, the sophomore two-guard is averaging 23.0 points per game. He went toe-to-toe with Walton, who was playing as good as any guard in the country, in the final minutes and got the better of the battle. Playing at this level, Oregon has another go-to scorer, one who has no issue taking a big shot late in the game. In either matchup in the next round, that should come in handy. Dillon Brooks, one of college’s toughest matchups, will either be busy with Purdue’s massive frontline or locked in an all-out war with Kansas’ Josh Jackson the perimeter.
“I’m really fortunate to have Jordan for three years and Tyler for two and Dillon Brooks,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. “We’ve just been really fortunate. We’ve got good players and guys that are unselfish. They want to win. They’re competitive. We got down four there and guys could have gave into it. They didn’t. They fought their way back. Shows you what kind of competitive spirit they’ve got.”
The Ducks, the No. 3 seed in the Midwest region, will face the winner of top-seeded Kansas and No. 4 Purdue on Saturday night at the Sprint Center.
“We know Purdue is really big and Kansas is Kansas,” Altman said.
Michigan team plane slides off runway after aborted takeoff
Michigan was involved in an accident Wednesday as it attempted its air travel to Washington, D.C. for the Big Ten tournament.
“After attempting to take off in high winds, takeoff was aborted,” the school said in a released statement, “and, after strong braking, the plane slid off runway. The plane sustained extensive damage but everyone on board was safely evacuated and is safe.
“The team is making alternate travel plans.”
Details beyond the release remained scarce as of Wednesday afternoon, but what’s clear is it was a serious situation for those involved.
No. 3 North Carolina at No. 13 Indiana, Weds. 9:15 p.m.
Easily the biggest game of the event, the streaking Tar Heels will make their way to Bloomington to face-off with an Indiana team that has been knocked back after a perfect start to the season. The Hoosiers not only lost to Fort Wayne on the road last week, but they may have lost James Blackmon Jr., the hero in the win over Kansas, to a knee injury. Tom Crean said the injury isn’t serious, but for a team that lacks weapons in the half court, not having Blackmon against the Tar Heels would be a major blow.
Because North Carolina is playing as well as anyone in college basketball right now. Joel Berry II looks like an all-american, the trio of Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Tony Bradley are averaging 39.0 points and 22.4 boards and the Tar Heels are hitting 39.2 percent from beyond the arc this season. Playing in Bloomington will be by far their biggest test of the season. The Hoosiers are lethal when their threes are going down, and when Assembly Hall is packed to the gills, those threes tend to go down.
Prediction: It sounds like Blackmon has a good chance of playing, so I’ll go with Indiana (+4.5) at home.
Michigan State at No. 5 Duke, Tues. 9:30 p.m.
Michigan State has been playing better of late, but this is still a dreadfully young team missing key players and at the end of a long, long three weeks. they’ve been to Hawai’i, New York and the Bahamas already this season, and they will be heading back out to Durham for this one at some point on Monday.
Miles Bridges is playing much better after the trip to the Battle 4 Atlantis than he did against Kentucky at the Garden and Duke, frankly, does not have anyone that can guard him. That said, I think the Blue Devils will be too much, even with Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden and Harry Giles III out and Grayson Allen limited.
Prediction: Duke (-11.5) coasts, but keep an eye on the status of Grayson Allen’s toe.
No. 22 Syracuse at No. 17 Wisconsin, Tues. 7:30 p.m.
Two teams trending in the wrong direction. Let’s start with Syracuse, who couldn’t find a way to run offense against South Carolina’s half court pressure. It was not a promising performance from the Orange, who mustered all of 50 points as the issues with their point guard play – Franklin Howard and John Gillon – rose to the surface.
On the other hands, the Badgers are still trying to figure out how they are going to be able to turn Nigel Hayes back into an efficient basketball player. A year after getting criticized for settling for too many threes, Hayes is shooting more three per game at a worse clip than he did last season, just 29.0 percent. Someone’s streak has to snap on Tuesday.
Prediction: I think Syracuse wins so of course I’ll take the Orange (+7.5).
No. 15 Purdue at No. 14 Louisville, Weds. 7:15 p.m.
This is a matchup of two very different teams. The Boilermakers want to pound the ball inside, to take advantage of the fact that they have Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan and you don’t. Louisville? They press, they try to force turnovers, they want to speed the game up and take advantage of the talent and athleticism on their perimeter.
There are two keys to this game. 1. Can Louisville’s bigs stay out of foul trouble? The sheer size of Haas and Swanigan got Georgia State into foul trouble and cost them a win in Mackey Arena, and it nearly cost Villanova their win at Purdue. 2. Will Louisville make perimeter shots? Deng Adel and Quentin Snider are shooting under 30 percent from the floor this season. Donovan Mitchell is under 40 percent. That’s not good.
Prediction: I’m on Louisville (-5.5) as I think Louisville’s guards overwhel Purdue’s back court and nullify the advantage the Boilermakers have inside.
Ohio State at No. 6 Virginia, Weds. 7:15 p.m.
Virginia is giving up an average of 41.3 points per game through six games. Their opponents are shooting 31.7 percent from the floor and averaging just 0.708 points-per-possession, which is an insane number. The question here is: Can Ohio State break 50 points on the evening?
Prediction: I’m going to say take the under (119.5) here. Virginia is a 12-point favorite, meaning the predicted final score is 66-54. The Wahoos haven’t given up more than 52 points this season and are allowing an average of just 41.3 points. Iowa, who put up 92 on Memphis and 78 on Notre Dame, scored 41 points against Virginia. Ohio State, however, has also been pretty good defensively on the season, and the only proven scored Virginia has on their roster is London Perrantes, who isn’t really a scorer. And all that is before you consider Virginia is the slowest team in the country and Ohio State is 185th in pace. If you’re only into betting lines, I’d say take Ohio State (+12).
Virginia Tech at Michigan, Weds. 9:15 p.m.
This is a win the Hokies badly need after they blew a 16-point second half lead to Texas A&M, missing out on their chance to take a swing at UCLA in the Wooden Legacy title game. Buzz Williams has a good team in Blacksburg, one that will improve their NCAA tournament candidacy with a win at Michigan. The Wolverines looked good at the 2K Classic in New York two weeks ago, but took a beating on the road against South Carolina over the weekend.
Prediction: I like Virginia Tech (+5), mainly because I’m not convinced Michigan isn’t overrated and I love the Hokies this season.
Monday, Nov. 28
Minnesota at Florida State, 7:00 p.m.: This is going to be a nice gauge game for both of these teams. The Seminoles should, in theory, be able to take care of Minnesota at home, but Richard Pitino’s team is sitting at 6-0 on the year with a 14-point win over Arkansas.
Wake Forest at Northwestern, 9:00 p.m.: Is this the year that Northwestern makes the tournament? It looked like it in their 19-point win over Texas. Not so much against Butler and Notre Dame. Wake Forest is 5-1 on the year with a couple of decent mid-major wins.
Tuesday, Nov. 29
Pittsburgh at Maryland, 7:00 p.m.: Maryland is 7-0 on the season, but five of those seven wins have come by single digits, including late comebacks against Georgetown and Kansas State. What happens when the Terps face off with a good Pitt team?
Georgia Tech at Penn State, 7:00 p.m.: Penn State has struggled early on this season while Georgia Tech is … still Georgia Tech under Josh Pastner.
Iowa at Notre Dame, 9:00 p.m.: Iowa scored 41 points against Virginia and lost. They got 42 points from Peter Jok the next night … and lost to Memphis. The Irish, coming off of a
win in the Legends Classic, have looked good this year.
N.C. State at Illinois, 9:00 p.m.: Dennis Smith Jr. has been phenomenal of late, but his team is still missing Maverick Rowan (concussion) and Omer Yurtseven (suspension). This is a win they should be able to get.
Wednesday, Nov. 30
Rutgers at Miami (Fla.), 7:15 p.m.: Don’t look now but Rutgers is undefeated. This will be their stiffest test of the season to date.
Nebraska at Clemson, 9:15 p.m.: I’m still unsure of what to make of either of these teams. Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame is a first round pick.
Thornwell leads South Carolina over No. 25 Michigan
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Sindarius Thornwell had 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead South Carolina past cold-shooting and 25th-ranked Michigan 61-46 on Wednesday night.
The Gamecocks improved to 5-0 for a second straight season and knocked off their first ranked opponent since an 81-78 win at No. 8 Texas A&M last February. South Carolina got a big assist in this one from Michigan’s awful outside touch – it finished 10 of 52 (19.6 percent) for its worst shooting percentage in six years.
It was the first time the Wolverines (4-1) hadn’t reached 50 points since scoring 42 in a loss to Eastern Michigan on Dec. 9, 2014.
The Wolverines scored more points from the free throw line, 24, than the field. They hit just two of 26 attempts from behind the arc.
South Carolina took control with a 22-12 run to start the second half and the Gamecocks were never tested as Michigan kept missing.
Zak Irvin, Michigan’s leading scorer, was just 2 of 13 from the field for five points. He fouled out with 5:33 to go. Derrick Walton Jr. led the Wolverines with 15 points on 3-of-14 shooting.
Duane Notice added 13 points for the Gamecocks.
THE BIG PICTURE
Michigan: The Wolverines are in the bottom half of Big Ten shooting teams early on and it was easy to see why against South Carolina. Michigan was just 6 of 24 from the field in the opening half, including an ice cold 1 of 12 from behind the arc. If it weren’t for its talent for drawing fouls (Michigan made 14 first-half free throws), the Wolverines would have been in a deep, deep hole. Michigan will have to find a more consistent touch if it hopes to make a mark in conference play.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks’ young players – there were four freshmen and a sophomore who saw first-half action – were aggressive on defense, maybe a bit too aggressive in the first half. South Carolina was whistled for 11 fouls, putting Michigan’s accurate free throw shooters on the line. At one point, Gamecocks coach Frank Martin screamed, “Why?” at PJ Dozier after his silly foul following his missed shot.
Michigan starts a four-game home stand with Mount St. Mary’s on Saturday night.
South Carolina takes on its second-straight ranked opponent when it plays No. 18 Syracuse on Saturday in Brooklyn, New York.
Through the first two weeks of the season, I think it’s safe to say that Kansas point guard Frank Mason III is college basketball’s early favorite as National Player of the Year. This week along, he went for 18 points and three assists in a win over Siena just three days after he had 21 points and five assists, burying the game-winning jumper, as the No. 7 Jayhawks picked off No. 1 Duke at Madison Square Garden in the Champions Classic.
And that doesn’t even include the 30 points that Mason had in a season-opening loss to Indiana, or mention the fact that the Jayhawks have already flown from Lawrence to Honolulu to New York back to Lawrence this season.
This is not going to be the last time that Mason wins this award this season, you can bet on that.
THEY WERE GOOD, TOO
Melo Trimble, Maryland: Maryland has played three games against Division I foes and Trimble is averaging 23.7 points in those three games. He made the game-winning plays in all three, including the free throws that beat DC rival Georgetown.
J.P. Macura, Xavier: Trevon Bluiett and Edmond Sumner are the big names for the Musketeers, but it was Macura that averaged 19.0 points, 4.7 boards, 3.7 assists and 2.3 steals in the Tire Pros Invitational title.
Deandre Burnett, Ole Miss: Burnett went for 41 points in an overtime win over Oral Roberts in the opening round of the Paradise Jam, following that up with 20 points and four assists in a win over Saint Joseph’s.
Malik Monk, Kentucky: Monk went for 23 points and hit seven threes as the Wildcats picked off No. 13 Michigan State in the Champions Classic.
Tacko Fall, UCF: In four games this week, the 7-foot-6 Fall averaged 17.8 points, 12.5 boards and 2.7 blocks as the Knights pushed No. 3 Villanova in the Charleston Classic finals.
Did anyone see this coming from the Wolverines? They went into Madison Square Garden and worked over a Marquette team coming off of dominating win over their own and followed that up with a blowout win of a pretty good SMU team. I’ll have some more thoughts on Michigan in the #taeks below.
1. Luke Kennard has been the beneficiary of Duke’s injury woes: No one on Duke’s roster had better taken advantage of the opportunity created by injuries to Harry Giles III, Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden than Luke Kennard has. With Grayson Allen also banged up – he’s reportedly dealing with a toe issue – Kennard has emerged as Duke’s go-to guy on the offensive end of the floor, and he’s thriving in the role. He was the best Duke player in the loss to Kansas, finishing with 22 points, five boards and five assists, and led the team with 24 points in Sunday’s win over No. 21 Rhode Island. On the season, he’s averaging 18.2 points while shooting 55.2 percent from the floor and 13-for-25 from three.
That’s massive for Duke for a couple of reasons, not the least of which being the fact that Kennard – and, frankly, Coach K – has learned that he is capable of carrying this team against some of the best opponents in the country. But it’s also evidence that the Blue Devils have more quality pieces that we may have realized, if that’s possible. Think about it like this: If Duke has everyone available to them, Jayson Tatum and Grayson Allen are the first two options offensively. Then it’s probably Harry Giles III. And then you get to the guy that’s leading them in scoring and was the best player on the floor the two times Duke played a ranked team.
2. Michigan is better than Michigan State, at least right now: I don’t know if they’ll be better than the Spartans come March but I do know that right now, as of November 21st, the Wolverines are the best team in the state of Michigan. Their back court is about doing what we expected them to do. Zak Irvin has been scoring the rock and Derrick Walton has been doing the things we want senior point guards to do. The key, however, is that Michigan’s bigs look better than anyone realized they would be. Moritz Wagner and Mark Donnal have been somewhere between effective and above average while D.J. Wilson has been catching lobs, hitting threes and blocking shots, anchoring a defense that looks far better than it was a year ago.
Will it last? We’ll find out soon enough.
3. Is Baylor the second-best team in the Big 12?: We didn’t know who it was going to be, but entering the season, we knew that someone was going to set themselves apart from the pack as the second-best team in the Big 12. The early returns are in, and it looks like the Bears are Kansas’ biggest contender after they blew out Oregon at home. Johnathan Motley has been everything we expected him to be while Manu Lecomte and Jo Lual-Acuil have outperformed all expectations early on.
4. We underestimated just how good Creighton is: We knew about Mo Watson and Marcus Foster coming into this season. And we knew that Cole Huff had the talent to be better than his production last season. What we didn’t realize was just how talented Justin Patton is or how good Khyri Thomas is. Patton is an athletic, versatile 6-foot-11 center that makes plays on both ends of the floor – and adds a dimension that the Jays were previously lacking – while Thomas is a perfect compliment in the back court to Watson’s playmaking and Foster’s shot-hunting. If their win over Wisconsin didn’t convince, did a shellacking of N.C. State do the trick?
5. Is Northern Iowa the best team in the Missouri Valley?: At this point, I think it’s fair to wonder if they are. Wichita State is still in the midst of figuring out how they’re going to replace Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker while Illinois State doesn’t have the same kind of discipline that UNI does. They don’t make mistakes defensively, they execute their sets offensively and they make the open threes their offense creates. Throw in the fact that Klint Carlson is a terrific player and Jeremy Morgan is a future NBA player, and you’ve got a team that is going to make a run at the MVC title.