Midwest Region Sweet Sixteen Game Breakdowns
This should be one of the most anticipated matchups of the Sweet 16. Both Kansas and Purdue won the regular season title in their respective conferences and both have National Player of the Year caliber player, Frank Mason at Kansas and Caleb Swanigan for Purdue. Where the two teams differ is their strengths. Kansas is a perimeter oriented team, while Purdue likes to pound it inside. Frank Mason partners with fellow senior Devonte’ Graham to give Kansas one of the best backcourts in the entire country. The duo is experienced, having played in a lot of big games over their careers, and do a very good job controlling the game. Their skills were on full display in the Jayhawks win over Michigan State. Both Mason and Graham caused problems for Michigan State with their quickness and will look to do the same against Purdue.
The Boilermakers will need a solid defensive performance from their guards to neutralize the Jayhawks backcourt. In return, Kansas will need senior big man Landen Lucas to have a big game and stay out of foul trouble, as he will be tasked with guarding Purdue’s twin towers, Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas. Swanigan, the Big Ten Player of the Year, is a load to handle inside, but also has the ability to step out and make jumpers on the perimeter. Haas comes off the bench and standing at 7-foot-2, the junior provides a look that most teams don’t have inside. Kansas lacks depth inside and if Purdue is going to pull off the upset, both Haas and Swanigan will need to have big games.
Watch for Josh Jackson to be the x-factor in this game. The freshman showed why he is projected to be a lottery pick in this summers draft against Michigan State, hitting big shot after big shot to keep the Spartans at arms length. He will likely be matched up with Purdue’s Vincent Edwards. If Edwards can keep Jackson under control, Purdue has a much greater chance to win this game. Kansas showed a weakness inside, struggling with Michigan State’s Nick Ward, and both of Purdue’s big men have a size advantage and are more experienced than Ward. Purdue will try and take advantage of that and if they can, don’t be surprised if the Boilermakers advance to the Elite 8.
Oregon will enter the Sweet 16 trying to figure out how to slow down Michigan. The Wolverines are on an absolute tear right not, as Michigan has now won 12 of their last 14, which includes a Big Ten Tournament title and an upset of Louisville in the second round. Senior point guard Derrick Walton Jr. has led Michigan during that stretch, playing some of the best basketball of his career, and fellow senior guard Zak Ervin provides the Wolverines with an athletic wing capable of creating his own shot. The senior duo has been the driving force for Michigan this season, but the emergence of DJ Wilson and Moritz Wagner has been key to Michigan making the Sweet 16. Since the start of the Big Ten Tournament, Wilson has been a go to option for Michigan offensively. The junior has scored at least 17 points in four of Michigan’s six postseason games, something he did just three times in the regular season. Wagner has been inconsistent from game to game, but the sophomore center’s unique skillset was on full display in the win over Louisville as he finished with 26 points on 11-14 shooting. If both can continue playing at that level, they have the ability to cause some real problems for Oregon, who are light in the frontcourt.
The Ducks lost their center Chris Boucher to a season ending knee injury in the Pac-12 Tournament and are now will need their remaining big men to play big minutes. The good news for Oregon though, is the players they have left in the frontcourt are athletic, which should help them match up with Wilson and Wagner. Junior forward Jordan Bell was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and will likely draw Wagner, a matchup he is fully capable of winning. Pac-12 Player of the Year Dillon Brooks will likely draw the assignment of guarding Wilson as the Ducks have gone with a four man perimeter look since losing Boucher. Brooks gives up a couple inches to Wilson, but that shouldn’t be too much of an issue, as Wilson is more of a stretch four. Brooks is going to score, the junior has scored at least 18 points in 13 of Oregon’s last 16 games, and if he can limit the effectiveness of Wilson as well, the Ducks have a great chance to advance. Oregon made it to the Elite 8 last year and have four players in their rotation back from that team. Sophomore wing Tyler Dorsey has been great so far in the tournament, scoring 24 in the Ducks opening win over Iona before adding 27 on Sunday against Rhode Island. Michigan will have their hands full guarding him.
Oregon will need one of their other two guards to step up next to him. Senior Dylan Ennis averages double figures scoring on the season but has struggled in the tournament. Payton Pritchard is just a freshman, but plays big minutes and can stretch defenses with his shooting. Getting a third option offensively alongside Brooks and Dorsey gives this Oregon team a balance that is tough to beat. Overall, this is a pretty even matchup, as both teams have a small rotation and play their starters the majority of the game. Oregon’s experience likely gives them a leg up in this game, but Michigan is on a roll right now. This one should go down to the wire.