A 1-2 showing in the Bahamas was not the trip the Michigan Wolverines hoped to have, and after a rough four-game stretch the team is barely above .500. The Wolverines still have a couple big non-conference games left on a slate, but not a lot of time to figure things out. With the early Big Ten games starting next week, Michigan first travels to a future Big Ten venue.
The Oregon Ducks are coming off of a poor MTE showing as well, losing both Emerald Coast Classic games against Santa Clara (ranking around 15 spots higher than Long Beach State in Kenpom) and Alabama. The Ducks did start off the season with four-straight wins, including a win over an ok Georgia team in Las Vegas, but are now slumping like Michigan.
On the road, this is a huge opportunity for the Wolverines. Oregon sits at No. 50 right now, and this is the sort of game that can really help the resume, especially after missed opportunities against Memphis and Texas Tech. It would also be a nice bit of revenge after the Ducks won in overtime in Ann Arbor a few years ago in the first leg of this home-and-home.
Michigan has some additional tough contests over the next two weeks (Indiana, at Iowa, vs. Florida), which is going to be a double-edged sword this season. Wins are not going to come easily at all, but there will be plenty of chances to earn some credibility. Traveling to Eugene might be the hardest of these four games, though this could be the right time to catch Oregon.
Michigan Wolverines (4-3) at Oregon Ducks (4-2)
Date & Time: Saturday, Dec. 2, 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR
The Ducks are led by their offense, which sits 36th nationally. This is an experienced team that protects the ball (12.9 percent turnover rate) and shoots fairly efficiently, though is not a heavy three-point heavy outfit. It is hard to get too optimistic about this matchup given that Michigan has fallen on the wrong side of 100 in adjusted defense.
One benefit for the visitors are the absences of centers Nate Bittle and N’Faly Dante. Given the lack of depth behind Tarris Reed, this removes one potential mismatch for the Ducks. Expect Oregon to lean on senior guards Jermaine Couisnard and Keeshawn Barthelemy instead and look for open looks against a defense that is still figuring out how to play together.
Greater than the sum
For Michigan to beat any quality teams this season it will require a true team effort. While the defense certainly needs to step up significantly, the offense has been absent in recent losses after a great start to the season. The numbers are not terrible — the Wolverines have performed like a top-60ish offense against quality opponents — but the eye test is rough.
Dug McDaniel has been electric, but it is clear he cannot singlehandedly carry this team. Nimari Burnett has been inconsistent, leaving the backcourt short a body (or two). The story is basically the same in the frontcourt, as Olivier Nkamhoua has been great but there is not a reliable second scorer. Maybe that is Reed in this game given the Ducks’ injuries, or maybe Terrance Williams continues to grow, but however it happens, this team must show that points can come from anywhere.