The Michigan men’s basketball team defeated No. 2 Louisville, 73-69, on Sunday — clinching a spot in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
Now, the Wolverines will travel to Kansas City to take on No. 3 Oregon before potential matchups with No. 1 Kansas or a rematch with No. 4 Purdue, a team that Michigan has already beaten twice this season.
The Daily breaks down all eight games that will take place either Thursday or Friday for spots in the Elite Eight.
Midwest Region – Kansas City, Mo.
No. 7 Michigan vs No. 3 Oregon
If the Wolverines’ run to the Sweet 16 isn’t impressive enough, the way they have done so certainly is.
In its first-round matchup with Oklahoma State, Michigan dialed shots up from beyond the arc time and time again. After sinking 11-of-15 from deep in the second half, the Wolverines managed to win a shootout against the Cowboys — who entered the game as the top-ranked team in adjusted offensive efficiency according to Ken Pomeroy.
And on Sunday, the Wolverines kept rolling, defeating the Cardinals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to give John Beilein his first win against Rick Pitino since 2005. Unlike Friday’s matchup, this time, Michigan pounded the paint. Sophomore forward Moritz Wagner finished with a game-high 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting — becoming the first Wolverine to score 25 points on 75 percent shooting in the NCAA Tournament since Chris Webber did so in 1993.
Michigan keeps finding more and more ways to score, and that is far from an encouraging sign for a sputtering Oregon team.
The Ducks got into the Sweet 16 by the skin of their teeth — eking out a 75-72 win over Rhode Island with the help of Tyler Dorsey’s 3-pointer with 38 seconds left to play. Through its first two games of the tournament, though, Oregon has reeled in 76 rebounds. Though 41 of those came against No. 14 seed Iona, if there’s a key to attacking the Wolverines it’s on the glass.
No. 1 Kansas vs No. 4 Purdue
If Michigan can manage to get by the Ducks, it will face the winner of Kansas and Purdue in the Elite Eight.
Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan continues to show why he was the Big Ten Player of the Year, as he scored 36 points and grabbed 26 boards through the opening weekend. More notably, 20 of those points and 12 of the rebounds came against No. 5 seed Iowa State. With Isaac Haas also at the Boilmakers’ disposal, they will likely try to counteract the Jayhawks’ strong guard play.
That will be easier said than done.
When it comes to Kansas, there may not be a hotter team in basketball. Between its matchups with UC Davis and Michigan State, the Jayhawks have won by an average margin of 29. Guards Frank Mason III and Josh Jackson continue to thrive, as the two are averaging 21 and 20 points per game through the opening weekend, respectively.
This one will come down to whether or not Purdue can flip Kansas’ game plan on its head, but with the way the Jayhawks are playing, that isn’t looking likely.
East Region – New York, N.Y.
No. 8 Wisconsin vs No. 4 Florida
Comparing the paths these two teams took to the Big Apple almost seems unfair. Florida would have been expected to play at Madison Square Garden. Wisconsin is lucky to have made it out of Buffalo.
After losing in the first round of the SEC Tournament, the Gators had five days of rest before their first NCAA Tournament matchup. Facing No. 13 East Tennessee State and No. 5 Virginia in its opening weekend, Florida had no trouble dispatching either opponent, toppling both by a combined 41-point margin.
Meanwhile, the Badgers needed to make five free throws in the final 37 seconds to beat No. 9 Virginia Tech, and then snuck past No. 1 overall seed Villanova off a go-ahead layup from forward Nigel Hayes with just 12 seconds left.
Both have a reasonable degree of momentum, as the Gators are on a roll and Wisconsin is used to tough contests. Whichever team can generate the most Friday night will likely stick around for another game in New York City.
No. 3 Baylor vs No. 7 South Carolina
Both of these teams have faced a mixed bag of ease and adversity in their opening weekend of the tournament. From blowing out their first opponents to outlasting their subsequent foes, Baylor and South Carolina seem to be on a similar trajectory despite being four seeds apart.
The Bears and Gamecocks posted nearly identical scores in their first round matchups, as Baylor defeated No. 14 New Mexico State, 91-73, and South Carolina beat No. 10 Marquette, 93-73.
In the second round, the Bears pulled away from No. 11 USC in the final five minutes and the Gamecocks surged past No. 2 Duke in the second half. The major difference in that regard is South Carolina pulled off the upset while Baylor was almost upset itself.
Though both sides are ranked in the top 50 for scoring margin, the Bears have the advantage at 10.1 to the Gamecocks’ 7.9. However, South Carolina might have another upset in store Friday.
South Region – Memphis, Tenn.
No. 1 North Carolina vs No. 4 Butler
North Carolina and Butler are two teams coming off polar opposite games in the second round. The Tar Heels barely squeaked by No. 9 Arkansas in a game where they trailed by five with three minutes remaining. But off the back of 19 points from forward Kennedy Meeks, the Tar Heels prevailed.
Butler, on the other hand, is coming off a relatively easy victory over No. 12 Middle Tennessee, shooting 51.1 percent in the game and 53.3 percent from behind the arc.
The Tar Heels will have the size advantage, giving them the upper hand on the boards. But if the Bulldogs continue to shoot well, as they have in the tournament so far, North Carolina could be in trouble.
No. 3 UCLA vs No. 2 Kentucky
Kentucky and UCLA are both coming off tough matchups against double-digit seeds with wins over No. 10 Wichita State and No. 11 Cincinnati, respectively, in the second round. The two teams have met already once this season, with the Bruins pulling off a 97-92 upset in Lexington with UCLA forward TJ Leaf putting on a spectacular 17-point, 13-rebound performance.
Three months later, the two teams will meet again, when the stakes will be much greater than a non-conference game in December. The Bruins are coming off a game where their star point guard Lonzo Ball had arguably his best performance in the past month, putting up a statline of 18 points and 9 assists — all of which came in the second half — to lead UCLA past the Bearcats.
Kentucky survived a nailbiter over the Shockers, in which the Wildcats’ freshmen trio of guards Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox and forward Bam Adebayo led the team to victory.
Look for the battle between the point guards (Fox and Ball) to dictate the pace of the game. Both teams play up tempo and score a lot of points, which was evident in their last matchup, and will make for one of the more entertaining of the eight games to watch.
West Regional – San Jose, Calif.
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 4 West Virginia
On paper it’s looking like Thursday’s matchup between the Bulldogs and Mountaineers is going to be a low-scoring affair. Gonzaga has the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense, while West Virginia forces opposing offenses into committing more turnovers than any other team in the country.
The Mountaineers experienced some drama in the first weekend, pulling out a tight contest against Bucknell with a six-point win, and followed that up with a more comfortable 12-point victory over Notre Dame. Junior point guard Jevon Carter had 24 points in the later of the Mountaineers’ wins. His matchup with Gonzaga point guard Nigel Williams-Goss promises to be entertaining and to largely shape what happens in Thursday’s game.
The Bulldogs nearly blew a 22-point lead against Northwestern over the weekend, and are hoping that close one can be a wakeup call for the team that lost just once in the regular season. Gonzaga will need more from its 7-foot-1 center Przemek Karnowski, who scored just nine points versus the Wildcats. He’s expected to be the key player for the Bulldogs against an undersized West Virginia squad.
No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 11 Xavier
The Musketeers are the tournament’s lowest remaining seed, but proved against No. 3 seed Florida State they are capable of taking anyone down. In one of the most one-sided games of the second round, Xavier absolutely blew out the Seminoles. Forward Trevon Bluiett led the way for the Musketeers with 29 points. That was Bluiett’s encore performance to a 21-point night in Xavier’s first round matchup with Maryland.
But the Wildcats have multiple players who have the talent and ability to put an end to Bluiett’s hot streak. Forward Rawle Alkins and guard Alonzo Trier have contained some of the Pac-12’s best small forwards all season long, and will hope to do the same with Bluiett and score some points at the same time. Forward Lauri Markkanen posted a double-double in Arizona’s second round game with St. Mary’s with 16 points and 11 rebounds, and will look to have another efficient day at the post.
The Musketeers do play a stretch-four, which could challenge Markkanen and the Wildcats on the perimeter. But Arizona has enough weapons to neutralize that threat, and can do so with both solid post play and outside shooting that could be too much for Xavier to overcome.