USA TODAY Sports’ George Schroeder looks at how the Jayhawks and Ducks prevailed to set up their upcoming matchup in the Midwest region of the NCAA tournament.
USA TODAY Sports
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — By now, no one should be surprised when Michigan fires up three-pointers with near reckless abandon — or when they go in.
But finally, the barrage of three-pointers wasn’t enough. No. 3 Oregon survived 69-68 Thursday night, sending the Ducks into the Elite Eight and ending the No. 7 Wolverines’ season — and a fantastic run through March.
Michigan’s upset bid was fueled as usual by the three-pointer. And they had a shot — a three, of course – at the buzzer. Trailing by one point with time running out, Derrick Walton Jr. got a decent look. His three-pointer over Oregon guard Dylan Ennis was on-line — but missed.
If Michigan (26-12) didn’t need a three-pointer, exactly, what else would anyone have expected? The Wolverines took 31 from beyond the arc (hitting 11) — more than the 27 two-pointers they tried. Walton’s shot was just short. Oregon rebounded. The buzzer sounded. And finally, an improbable journey was over — but not until the Wolverines had put a huge scare into the higher seed.
SWEET 16 BATTLE: Oregon prevails
Oregon hadn’t pulled away, but in the latter moments the Ducks seemed to be on the verge of taking control — until Michigan unleashed from deep again. D.J. Wilson hit from right wing. And the next trip down, Walton took one dribble around a screen, then buried a 3 from the top of the circle. Suddenly, the Wolverines led 61-60.
Oregon retook the lead on sophomore Tyler Dorsey’s 3 with 4 minutes left. But Zak Irvin nailed one, too — Michigan’s 11th in 30 attempts – and the stage was set for the finish.
“Our guys have had quite a wild ride here in the last six weeks,” Michigan coach John Beilein said — and he was talking basketball, not aborted air travel.
The season nadir — “lower than low,” Beilein said – might’ve been February 4, a home loss to Ohio State. Michigan dropped to 14-9 overall and 4-6 in Big Ten play. Talk of playing in the NCAA Tournament seemed, well, farfetched.
But basketball teams evolve, and Michigan did, morphing rapidly into something formidable. The Wolverines won five of their last seven regular-season games — and the losses were in overtime at Minnesota and on a prayer by Northwestern — and then really got rolling.
First, of course, that airplane skidded off the runway, a harrowing incident that could have been tragic but wasn’t. The accident delayed Michigan’s arrival in Washington, D.C., for the Big Ten Tournament, and they played their first-round game wearing practice gear. They won, and then won three more times — four wins in four days — to cement the Big Ten’s automatic bid.
By the time they cut down the nets after beating Wisconsin, they’d settled in as a national March sweetheart.
After outlasting Oklahoma State and upsetting No. 2 Louisville, Michigan arrived in Kansas City brimming with confidence and swagger. Why couldn’t they keep playing a while longer?
Oregon had the answer.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE SWEET 16