Michigan

Oregon's resolve, guile and heart deserve admiration after 69-68 win over Michigan

Oregon's resolve, guile and heart deserve admiration after 69-68 win over Michigan

KANSAS CITY - Oregon senior guard Dylan Ennis put his head down in disappointment after missing his second front end of one-and-one free throw attempts in the final two minutes Thursday night, the latter coming with the Ducks leading 69-68 over Michigan at the Sprint Center. 

Ennis felt deflated, knowing that having made the first of his second one-and-one attempt would have given his team a two-point lead with 15 seconds remaining in the game. Making two at the end would have put the No. 3 Ducks up three. 

"I went straight over to him," Oregon junior guard Casey Benson said, describing how he offered Ennis encouragement.

But Ennis, a 74.8 percent free throw shooter, didn't need much of a pep talk. He knew he had to find a way to make amends with Michigan having one final chance at pulling out a victory. 

Ennis, as it turned out, ended up on Michigan senior guard Derrick Walton Jr.   Ennis made it difficult on Walton, a deft penetrator who ultimately settled for a deep jumper that banged off the rim at the buzzer. Ducks win, 69-68 to advance to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season. 

"If they hit that shot, it's on you," Ennis said, "and I didn't want to live with that for the rest of my life. So I dug in."

Oregon (32-5) has made digging in a habit this postseason. When this season comes to a close - national champions, or not - these Oregon Ducks should be remembered for their guts, guile and heart. All three have carried them through no matter what obstacles stand in their way. Some have been created by their own doing. Some have come about because of bad luck. Others were the result of strong play from a worthy opponent, such as Michigan.

"The team with the most heart won," UO forward Dillon Brooks said. 

That Oregon, which will face No. 1 Kansas on Saturday, made it this far is not shocking. But that they have twice overcome being eliminated by finding a way win over and over has been impressive. The Ducks, minus star forward Chris Boucher (knee) this postseason, easily could have lost in the second to Rhode Island, but pulled out a 75-72 lead thanks to shutting down the Rams over the final few minutes and getting two huge three-point shots from sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey. 

Several clutch plays defined Thursday night's win. No. 7 Michigan (26-12) led 68-65 when Ennis missed his first front end of a one-and-one. That could have proven to be devastating. But junior forward Jordan Bell slithered his way underneath Michigan's big men to gather the rebound and put it back in with a reverse layup to make the score 68-67. 

After the game, Ennis joked that he owed Bell dinner for "saving his life." Bell joked that his teammate certainly owed him something. But most of all, several of Oregon's players said that that's just how they do things. As a team. Having one another's backs. Picking one another up. Remaining strong. 

"We were just playing tough," Brooks said. "Teams are going to go up and we're going to go down. But we're not going to get discouraged."

After one of the team's three defensive stops over the final two minutes, Dorsey ended up with the ball and Oregon down 68-67. He fiercely grinded his way to get off a shot. Driving left. Getting stopped. Faking. Spinning. Getting his defender into the air. Then he smoothly floated in a layup for the lead. 

"Do whatever you can to win," Bell said. 

Michigan was labeled as the team of destiny after experiencing a minor plane crash earlier this month prior to the start of the postseason. Maybe now it's Oregon that has some of that destiny stuff working for it right about now. 

"It's just exciting to move on to the next game and have another opportunity to go to the Final Four," Benson said. 

The Ducks were blasted last season by Oklahoma in the Elite Eight during that attempt to reach the Final Four. They weren't quite ready for that level of play. Saturday against Kansas will be very difficult. Its fan base has taken over the Sprint Center and it helped propel the Jayhawks to a 98-66 win over No. 4 Purdue. 

The Ducks will need every bit of their defensive prowess and the tenacity they displayed Thursday night to get through that game. 

"That's what kind of defense we need for 40 minutes," Brooks said. "The offense will come. Tonight it didn't."

Oregon in many ways is inferior to Kansas. Missing Boucher could really finally catch up with the Ducks on Saturday.

"I feel really bad for Chris, just because it's tearing him up," UO coach Dana Altman said. "He wants to be out there so bad, help his teammates.

The Ducks might go down Saturday. But it won't be without a fight. And it won't be because they lacked the heart to stand in there, take big blows and fire back with desire. 

Oregon returns to regional finals after 69-68 win over Michigan

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USA Today

Oregon returns to regional finals after 69-68 win over Michigan

Oregon 69, Michigan 68 

How Oregon won: No. 3 Oregon (32-5) once again found a way late in a NCAA Tournament game to pull out a narrow victory and advance, winning 69-68 over No. 7 Michigan (26-12) Thursday night at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. 

Oregon sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey, the hero in the team's second-round win over Rhode Island, made a three-foot shot to give UO a 69-68 lead with 1:09 remaining, and the Ducks got stops on Michigan's final three possessions over the final two minutes and change to earn the win. 

Michigan guard Derrick Walton Jr. missed a jump shot from 18 feet out at the buzzer.

Michigan attempted 31 three-point shots, making just 11. The Wolverines made 14 of 27 two-point field goals. Michigan coach John Bielein said there were several threes his team shouldn't have taken but also added that the Wolverines were mindful of Oregon forward Jordan Bell's defensive prowess inside. 

Oregon shot 44.8 percent from the field. Michigan made 43.1 percent of its shots and committed just one turnover in the second half after committing seven in the first half. The Ducks only turned the ball over five times all game. 

What it means: Oregon advances to the regional finals for the second consecutive season. Oregon last year lost 80-68 to Oklahoma in the West Regional finals in Anaheim, Calif. 

Key sequence: Oregon led 60-55 after senior guard Dylan Ennis hit a jump shot with 5:10 remaining. Michigan, however, answered with back-to-back three pointers. First D.J. Wilson made one from 24 feet out off an assist from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. Dorsey then missed a jumper for Oregon setting up a three from Derrick Walton Jr. from 27 feet out to give the Wolverines a 61-60 lead with 4:15 remaining in the game, and causing UO coach Dana Altman to call a timeout.

The talking to worked. Dorsey came out of the timeout and got a three from the corner from to make the score 63-61, UO. But then, Irvin came back for Michigan with a three to give the Wolverines a 64-63 lead. 

Michigan led 68-65 with 1:49 remaining when Ennis missed the front end of a one-and-one. But Bell got the offensive rebound and scored to make the score 68-67, Michigan. 

Some 40 seconds later, Dorsey hit what proved to be the game-winner. 

High-flying Ducks: Dorsey finished with 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting and made five of his seven three-point attempts. 

Bell had 16 points and 13 rebounds. 

Ennis gave the Ducks 10 points, five rebounds and three assists. Oregon junior forward Dillon Brooks had a relatively quiet night scoring 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting. However, he added four rebounds and five assists. 

Fowl play: UO junior forward Kavell Bigby-Williams only gave the Ducks one points and two rebounds in eight minutes of action. 

Up next: Oregon will play the winner of tonight's second game between No. 1 Kansas and No. 4 Purdue on Saturday. 

Oregon was rooting for Michigan, "until now"

Oregon was rooting for Michigan, "until now"

KANSAS CITY - Oregon players couldn't help but become Michigan fans after the Wolverines were involved in a minor plane crash three weeks ago that shook up the players but also has partially propelled them into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. 

"We've all been cheering them on," UO junior forward Jordan Bell said today during media availability at the Sprint Center. "We understand that going through a thing like that can really bring a lot of heart and passion out of people, so we've just been rooting for them."

Bell also added an "up until now," while talking about No. 7 Michigan, which is undefeated since the plane incident and now finds itself up against No. 3 Oregon (31-5) at 4:09 p.m. on Thursday. 

The story of the NCAA Tournament thus far revolves around Michigan (26-11) and its harrowing experience while on a plane taking the team to the Big Ten tournament in Washington, D.C. on Mar. 8.  Facing high winds while attempting to take off from Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Mich., the pilots aborted takeoff but ended up skidding off of the runway and crashing into a field. Nobody was injured but the event left the team a bit shaken up, according to reports.

Michigan went on to win the Big Ten Tournament and upset No. 2 Louisville in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to earn a trip to the Midwest Regional semifinals. Because of its story, some have dubbed Michigan as a "team of destiny."

"I think definitely an experience like that would bring you that much closer together, realizing what is important in the grand scheme of things," Oregon junior guard Casey Benson said. "Definitely they have carried that since that happened into the postseason. They're playing at a high level with a lot of confidence, so we've got to match the intensity."

The Michigan admiration, however, only goes so far. UO junior forward Dillon Brooks said the Wolverines' story wouldn't impact Thursday's game. 

"It's a great story and it's a great thing for that program," he said. "We all hear about it but it's just another team in front of us...I see a team in front of me. I know these guys see the same thing. They don't see no destiny. They don't see the crazy thing that happened to them. We just go out there and play our game and play hard. Those guys are talented guys and they play well together. They're playing well for each other and we have to crush that and not give them easy baskets."

The Wolverines were actually on a roll before the plane incident and have now won 12 of their last 14 games. They are led by senior guards Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin who attack the basket, shoot well from outside and don't turn over the ball very often. In fact, the Wolverines average just 9.2 turnovers per game. Oregon likes to be disruptive on defense in order to create bad shots and turnovers that lead to fast breaks. Accomplishing that through forced turnovers won't be easy against Michigan.  

"Being active on defense is going to be key for us," UO sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey said. "We must have active hands. That's going to be key for us in getting deflections and getting steals. Speeding them up and getting them out of their tempo and what they want to run."

Where Oregon could have a huge advantage is in the rebounding department. Michigan averages just 29.2 rebounds per game compared to 36.5 for Oregon.  Sophomore forward Moritz Wagner (6-foot-11) lit up Louisville for 26 points in the last round, but he gave the Wolverines just three rebounds. Wagner averages just 4.1 per game. The 6-10 D.J. Wilson leads the team at 5.3. 

For these reasons, Brooks said that the Ducks could cause more of a matchup problem for Michigan inside than vice versa despite UO not having senior forward Chris Boucher (knee injury) and his 6.1 rebounds per game. Bell averages 8.3 and 6-10 junior Kavell Bigby-Williams can crash the boards when he isn't in foul trouble. 

"Nobody in the Big Ten has a team like ours," Brooks said. "We're versatile, unselfish, a team that loves each other and plays for each other and I feel like we're going to give them a lot of fits...They've got a little size but I feel like me, Jordan and Kavell will hold our own. They've got to guard us. They've probably never guarded no one like Jordan, or like me, or like Velley."

Both teams are playing well. Both teams have earned the right to be here. Which team advances will come down to which team seizes the moment. 

"They got hot at the right time and their playing with a lot of confidence, and we've got to match that confidence," Dorsey said. 

Most of the country will probably be rooting for Michigan, given its backstory that Benson and Bell said caused them to root for the Wolverines. UO coach Dana Altman, however, said he hasn't had time to pull for anyone other than his own team. 

"I do think it's a great story though and how coach (John) Beilein says they have bonded and it's made them much closer," Altman said. "That is a unique story."

It's one that only can continue at Oregon's expense. 

Oregon could be in trouble against hot Michigan

Oregon could be in trouble against hot Michigan

Oregon's narrow 75-72 win over Rhode Island in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday certainly provided plenty of thrills and chills. 

That Tyler Dorsey sure is a clutch shooter. 

The win also provided something else. An "uo oh," or two, for anyone not caught up in the euphoria of watching the Ducks barely slip past a team from the Atlantic 10 Conference.  On the other side of the Midwest Region bracket, the No. 7 Michigan Wolverines were taking care of No. 2 Louisville a week after winning the Big Ten Tournament championship. Michigan has now won 12 of 14 games to overcome a 14-9 start to the season.

Oregon faces Michigan on Thursday. 

"They've got a lot of guys that can shoot the three," Altman said Tuesday in Eugene. "They've got a lot of guys that can put the ball on the floor. They will be a lot to handle, defensively... We know we're going to have to be at our best defensively to try and slow them down a little bit."

Altman said he watched Michigan play on video earlier this season while scouting UCLA. The Bruins dominated the Wolverines, 102-84 on Dec. 10 in Los Angeles, Calif.  Back then, Michigan was struggling to find its footing. The Wolverines followed the loss to UCLA by winning three straight against the likes of Central Arkansas, Maryland-Eastern Shore and Furman. Then Big Ten conference play began and Michigan lost six of its next 10 games. 

Since then, however, the Wolverines have been a different team. Consider that on Jan. 29, Michigan lost 70-62 at Michigan State near the end of the 10-game stretch to start conference play. On Feb. 7, the Wolverines destroyed the Spartans, 86-57 at home to start Michigan's current stretch of winning 12 out of its last 14. 

"They're running their stuff really good, now," Altman said. 

The key catalyst for Michigan has been senior guard, Derrick Watson Jr., averaging 15.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. He will lead an offense that is sure to challenge the Ducks inside, where they have become vulnerable without 6-foot-10 senior forward Chris Boucher, out for the season with a knee injury. 

"It's going to be a tough game," Altman said. "It's a tough matchup for us. We haven't been as good in the paint. People know that. We've been exposed there a little bit without Chris. Our number of blocked shots, our change shots are way down. So, people are going to attack us."

The Ducks and Wolverines hold media availability today. 

A quick look at the game:

No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 7 Michigan

Where: Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo. 

When: 4:09 p.m., Thursday.

TV: CBS

Records: Ducks (31-5), Wolverines (26-11).

Last outings: Oregon escaped the second round with a 73-72 win over No. 11 Rhode Island. Michigan pulled off a massive tournament upset with a 73-69 win over No. 2 Louisville (25-9).

Coaches: UO's Dana Altman (185-69 at Oregon, 594-312 Division I). Michigan's John Beilein (215-134 at Michigan at Rhode Island, 691-409 overall)

Key Ducks: Dillon Brooks, F, Jr. (16.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 40.9 3pt%); Jordan Bell, F, Jr. (10.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 74 blocks);  Tyler Dorsey, G, Soph. (14 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 40.2 3pt%), Dylan Ennis, G, Sr., (10.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.1 apg).

Key Wolverines: Derrick Walton Jr., G, Sr. (15.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.9 apg.); Zak Irvin, G, Sr. (12.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.0 apg.); Moritz Wagner, F, So., (12.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg), D.J. Wilson, F, Jr., (11.0 ppg., 5.3 rpg).

Notes: The Ducks are 0-4 all-time against UM, ranked No. 24 in the AP Poll.... Michigan won the only postseason meeting between these two teams, 78-53 during the 2004 NIT...The Wolverines won the last meeting, 70-63 on Nov. 24, 2014... 

 

It turns out that College Football Playoff just as messed up as BCS or polls

It turns out that College Football Playoff just as messed up as BCS or polls

It's fixed. It's all a setup.

College football set up a playoff system, ostensibly to fairly determine a national championship on the field, rather than by simply holding a beauty contest masking as a poll. But what we ended up with this weekend is another example of the sport being more concerned with TV ratings and ultimately cranking the money machine up even higher.

Ohio State meets Clemson in the first round. Alabama plays Washington. It's really all about trying to set up an Urban Meyer-Nick Saban matchup for the championship -- two superpowers and two supercoaches meeting in a ratings bonanza.

In a four-team playoff, Ohio State shouldn't even be in the mix. At least by the listed criteria of the College Football Playoff on its website. That website says:

The selection committee ranks the teams based on conference championships won, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, comparison of results against common opponents and other factors.

Conference championships won? What conference did the Buckeyes win? Penn State won the Big 10 in the conference's title game while Ohio State sat home watching. I'm actually shocked Washington got in because you know the committee was dying to put Michigan in, for the TV ratings a rematch with Ohio State would draw. But apparently winning the Pac-12 matters more than winning the Big 10, even though most people believed the latter was a more powerful conference this season.

Of course, the playoff should include at least eight teams with automatic berths for the Big Five conference title winners and then three wild-card teams. That would cover all the teams that belong in the playoff -- including, this season, the Buckeyes and red-hot USC. And not Michigan, which lost two of its last three games.

And it's silly when people make the argument that the controversy of having just four teams and the fuss over who gets chosen is good for the sport. No it isn't. It never has been. A whole lot of people complaining about what you're doing is never a good way to market your product. We heard the same excuse for the BCS system for years and that whole thing stunk.

For me, it's just one more example of why I've lost a degree of interest in college sports over the years. It's a bunch of kids working hard at their sport to enable a bunch of wealthy athletic departments and their administrators to generate as much money as possible off the sweat of those kids. Exploitation rules. This isn't about finding the best team, it's about making the most money.

That's fine if this is strictly business, but it isn't. This is supposed to be "student-athletes" competing on a level playing field. You know, the purity of sport. I can't even write that without smirking.

It's a mess.