For a first weekend of the tournament that didn’t see all that much madness, the Michigan Wolverines have continued to be one of the better stories of the last two weeks anywhere in the sport. They’ve continued their hot streak and have found themselves in an interesting match-up with the Oregon Ducks on Thursday night.
The Purdue Boilermakers, meanwhile, have traveled to Kansas City to take on the #1 seed in their own backyard, the Kansas Jayhawks. In a game that features two National Player of the Year candidates, Purdue will look to advance to their first Elite Eight since 2000.
Let’s take a look at each game and how they might play out, with betting odds being provided by KenPom.
Game of the Day:
- #4 Purdue Boilermakers vs. #1 Kansas Jayhawks
- Time/TV: 9:39pm ET, CBS
- KenPom Spread: Kansas (-3)
These two teams have played some memorable games in the NCAA Tournament. In 1994, they met in the Sweet 16. In that game, Glenn Robinson scored a Purdue NCAA Tournament record 44 points and led the Boilermakers over the Kansas Jayhawks to go to the Elite Eight.
In 2012, Robbie Hummel led the #10 seeded Purdue against the #2 seeded Kansas Jayhawks. Hummel posted 26 points, 22 of which came in the first half, but Kansas pulled ahead in the final minute to move on to the Sweet 16.
This year, with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line, it’s a clash of styles as the dominant big men of Purdue will face some of the elite guards of the Kansas Jayhawks.
This game features two of the four finalists (and likely the two front-runners) for National Player of the Year in Caleb Swanigan of Purdue and Frank Mason III of Kansas. Swanigan leads the country in double-doubles, while Mason is going to finish as the only player in the history of the Big 12 to average 20 points and 5 assists over a season.
This game is, without a doubt, appointment television. Take your afternoon naps, do whatever you have to do to make sure you’ll be awake for the entirety of this match-up.
This will likely be a battle of who can take advantage of their strengths more. If the guards of Kansas can play huge like they have in this tournament and they can limit Swanigan and Haas inside, Kansas will win. If Purdue can somehow limit the guards of Kansas and dominate down low, the Boilers will move on.
In a classic clash of styles, there will undoubtedly be an X-factor performance. Can Dakota Mathias make 4 or 5 threes? Will Carsen Edwards be great on both ends? For Kansas, potential X-factors include Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (yes, I had to google the spelling) or Lagerald Vick.
Vincent Edwards will be a huge key for Purdue because of his size, skill and athleticism on both ends of the basketball.
With that being said, Kansas is all-around the better team, and guards win games in March. Look for Bill Self and the Jayhawks to move on to the Elite Eight, in a tight game. Purdue would have nothing to be ashamed of. I look for Kansas to pull away at the very end.
- Pick against the spread: Kansas
-#7 Michigan Wolverines vs. #3 Oregon Ducks
- Time/TV: 7:09pm ET, CBS
- KenPom Spread: Oregon (-1)
The Michigan Wolverines are one of those magical runs. It’s got all the ingredients. They had the traumatic incident with the airplane before the Big Ten Tournament and rattled over four consecutive wins before getting two more wins in this NCAA Tournament.
Derrick Walton Jr. is, without a doubt, a guard that is good enough to lead one of those miraculous tournament runs all the way to the Championship game. Moritz Wagner is a mismatch for any team in the country because of his versatility and guys like D.J. Wilson just always seem to be making plays for this team in the last two weeks on the national stage.
Now, the Oregon Ducks will stand in the way of John Beilein and another Elite Eight. The Ducks have the Pac-12 Player of the Year in Dillion Brooks and are a really solid all-around team. However, before the tournament they lost their defense anchor Chris Boucher.
Michigan is a team that will figure out very quickly what you can’t guard and attack it continuously, and Boucher being absent in this game will have a huge impact. It wouldn’t be a shock if we were in for another huge game from Wagner after his breakout performance against Louisville. He’s simply too much of a mismatch, especially for a team missing their best post defender.
This is going to be a back and forth game with two teams that have some veteran leadership. Guys like Dillion Brooks and Dylan Ennis for Oregon and then Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin for Michigan will definitely have a big say in this game before it’s over.
Conventional wisdom says that the luck of the Michigan Wolverines has to run out eventually, but this is March Madness, where conventional wisdom means nothing. And even if the luck is going to run out, I don’t see it being against the Oregon Ducks. Look for the Wolverines to earn themselves a spot in the Elite Eight in a close game.
- Pick Against the Spread: Michigan