No. 3 Oregon is prepared to play the “underdog” role against No. 7 Michigan on Thursday evening from the Sprint Center in Kansas City. With the Sweet 16 on the horizon, the Ducks are reminded of their last game vs the Wolverines.
It’s not often the lower seed is the favorite, but the Wolverines’ recent run is unprecedented. They have the support of an entire country, with the lone exception from Eugene. Some may even say this Michigan team is destined for greatness. Those people are not Dillon Brooks.
“I don’t see destiny, I want to go out there and crush that,” said Brooks. “We’re just going to come out and play hard. I feel like these guys don’t want to go home.”
We need to take a moment to pay respect to the past as we prepare to move forward. On Nov. 24, 2014, Oregon lost to Michigan, 70-63, in the Legends Classic from the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn.
Michigan entered the locker room at halftime leading Oregon, 33-27. But, the Ducks surged back to lose the second half by just one point, 37-36.
The Wolverines shot 46 percent from the field and 79 percent at the charity stripe. Not much has changed in three years, as Michigan is averaging nearly the same numbers in 2016-17.
Regardless, the story of the final 20 minutes was the loss of Dwayne Benjamin. The Oregon forward went down with an ankle injury after 24 stellar minutes on the floor. The junior registered 11 rebounds, eight points and two assists before he exited.
That loss was the fourth game of Dillon Brooks’ collegiate career. He hasn't forgotten.
“I remember those guys from my freshman year in Brooklyn,” said Brooks. “We want payback and revenge.”
The Canadian recruit from Findlay Prep in Nevada scored 14 points, collected seven rebounds, including five offensive boards and dished out two dimes. Yet, it wasn’t enough for his new Duck family.
Brooks started the game and played 28 minutes. He concluded 6-for-14 from the floor and 1-for-2 from deep.
Casey Benson and Jordan Bell were both freshmen on the team, as well. The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year doesn’t have any hard feelings. In fact, he is pleased by Michigan’s recent surge considering their circumstances.
“I’m happy for them,” Bell said. “What they went through, almost dying in a plane crash, that could make anyone play with a lot of passion.”
Bell recorded five rebounds, two blocked shots and two points in just 17 minutes off the bench. He is looking to make a bigger impact this time around.
Benson was scoreless in 23 minutes of action that November day.
“They’re hot and playing well, so we know we have another team that’s really confident and we have to get ready for them,” Benson stated.
Joe Young led the way with a game-high 20 points. The former Oregon star finished the game 5-for-16 from the field, alongside a perfect 8-for-8 from the line. He played a team-high 37 minutes.
The second-leading scorer for the Ducks that day was Elgin Cook. He secured 13 points and six boards in 31 minutes of action.
Caris LeVert led the way for Michigan with 18 points.
Current Wolverine and then freshman, Zak Irvin filled it up with a team-high 19 points. He was 6-for-11 from the floor and 3-for-6 behind the arc. He could play a pivotal role in Thursday’s tilt.
Current senior star Derrick Walton Jr. scored just six points in the Michigan victory. He wasn’t nearly as active as he is now, registering three shots in 24 minutes.
2017 starters Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and DJ Wilson combined for four total minutes during the Legends Classic.
Brooks and company are certainly looking to rewrite the record books this time around. Oregon is facing their second straight Elite Eight appearance. Meanwhile, Michigan is looking to capitalize on one of the most storied runs in tournament history.
My money is on the “underdog” Ducks.
No. 3 Oregon (31-5) will meet No. 7 Michigan (26-11) in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. The third round of the Midwest region will tip at 4:09 p.m. PT on Thursday night from the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.