If you aren’t alum of an American school still standing in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 and thus don’t have a pointed rooting interest, considering adopting the University of Oregon as your team to back. The third-seeded Ducks are in a way Canada’s team in the Big Dance, but they are slight Sports Interaction betting underdogs for Thursday’s South Region matchup against No. 7 Michigan. It’s the first game of the Sweet 16.
NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Odds: Michigan Wolverines vs. Oregon Ducks
Date: Thursday, March 23, 7:10 p.m. ET
Location: Sprint Center, Kansas City
Three of coach Dana Altman’s five best players are from Canada: forward Dillon Brooks (Mississauga), guard Dylan Ennis (Brampton) and forward/center Chris Boucher (Montreal). Except Boucher was lost in the Pac-12 Tournament to a season-ending knee injury. He was one of the nation’s best shot-blockers and averaged 11.8 points and 6.1 rebounds. Boucher was a senior so his college career is over. Ennis is a senior so his next loss will be his last game.
Brooks is a junior but could declare for the NBA Draft. He was named Pac-12 Player of the Year and a first-team All-American. He’s averaging 16.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists and hit a couple of game-winning shots in the regular season.
Some experts wrote off the Ducks’ Final Four chances after Boucher’s injury. The school has made one Final Four and that was in 1939 when it beat Ohio State in the first NCAA Tournament. Oregon, the Pac-12 co-regular season champion, opened this Big Dance with an easy 93-77 victory over No 14 Iona. Brooks had 18 points, while Ennis had only five.
On Sunday, Oregon (31-5) edged No. 11 Rhode Island 75-72. Brooks took a crucial late charge and finished with 19 points to become the school’s career leader in NCAA Tournament scoring. Tyler Dorsey hit the tying and go-ahead 3-pointers in the final minutes and had a game-high 27 points on 9-for-10 shooting. Dorsey has scored 20 or more points in a career-high five straight games and is one of only three players in the last 26 years to score at least 27 points on 90 percent shooting in an NCAA Tournament game, joining Blake Griffin (Oklahoma) and Christian Laettner (Duke).
It’s the first time in school history that Oregon has made consecutive Sweet 16s. The Ducks beat No. 4 Duke in that round last year before falling to No. 2 Oklahoma in the Elite Eight. Oregon hasn’t played a Big Ten team this season.
The Ducks are +1600 on Sports Interaction’s basketball odds to win the NCAA title.
Perhaps no school is playing better than Michigan (26-11) right now. In mid-February, this was a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament, but the Wolverines have won nine of their past 10 games (7-3 ATS). They were a No. 8 seed in the Big Ten Tournament – the plane they were on heading to the tournament careened off the runway while trying to take off — but won four games in four days to become the highest seed to ever win it. U-M beat two ranked teams along the way in Purdue and Wisconsin, and both are also in the Sweet 16. The Big Ten was maligned in the regular season but is having the last laugh.
In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Coach John Beilein’s Wolverines beat No. 10 Oklahoma State 92-91 in one of the more entertaining games of this tournament so far. Star senior guard Derrick Walton Jr., the Big Ten Tournament MVP, had 26 points and 11 rebounds. Michigan made a school-record 16 3-pointers and shot 51.8 percent overall.
On Sunday, Michigan upset No. 2 Louisville 73-69 in shooting 49.1 percent from the field against one of the best defensive teams in the country. German sophomore Moritz Wagner had a career-high 26 points, and Walton added 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Michigan is one of the nation’s most efficient offenses and rarely turns the ball over – it had just six giveaways vs. Louisville’s pressure defense. It’s a very thin group, however, so if any starter gets into foul trouble that becomes a problem. Especially if it’s Walton.
The Wolverines, now +1500 to win their first NCAA title since 1989, are 4-0 all-time vs. Oregon. The teams last played in the 2014 Legends Classic in Brooklyn, a 70-63 Michigan victory. The Ducks missed eight of 11 three-pointers in the first half and never led the game. Michigan did play one Pac-12 team this season, losing at then-No. 2 UCLA 102-84 on Dec. 10. The Bruins and Oregon split two very close games.
Michigan vs. Oregon Predictions
The winner of this game faces either No. 4 Purdue or No. 1 Kansas on Saturday – likely the Jayhawks considering they are basically playing a home game in Kansas City. KU is also a 4.5-point favourite. Take the points here – and go over the total — as Oregon advances to play Kansas for a trip to the Final Four.