A 30-point Michigan lead on the way to a convincing season opener quickly turned into a near disaster against Appalachian State. Head coach Juwan Howard still earned his first coaching victory, but the Wolverines almost paid the price for coasting down the stretch. Tuesday’s opponent is unlikely to provide the same opportunity.
Michigan faces Creighton for just the third time in program history and is 2-0 head to head. The Blue Jays are the third different team the Wolverines will face in the Gavitt Tipoff Games (think Big Ten/ACC Challenge but with the Big East). Last year’s iteration featured the memorable 27-point beatdown of Villanova, and this early matchup provides the chance for another quality non-conference win.
Kenpom places Creighton at No. 32 overall, just one spot below Michigan, but the schools are flipped on offense and defense; the Blue Jays are 13th in offensive efficiency and 67th defensively. The visitors are coming off a 20-15 season and an NIT appearance but will have a decent shot at an NCAA Tournament bid come this March.
What to watch
Figuring out the guards: Zavier Simpson had an uncharacteristically bad game against the Mountaineers, although he still contributed six assists and some solid defense when he was in the game. His off night allowed Eli Brooks to have a career performance, putting up 24 points and five threes.
There were some moments when these two were joined on the floor by David DeJulius, who went scoreless in 28 minutes. This lineup did not really work, but depth issues made it a necessity for Howard. Adrien Nunez contributed to this problem by constantly getting into foul trouble. Against a guard-heavy team like Creighton, some more three-guard sets could be in play.
Eliminating sloppy play: By racing out to a huge lead against a lesser team, the Wolverines were able to basically take the last 10 minutes of the game off and still escape unscathed. However, 17 turnovers — including six from Simpson — are a recipe for disaster going forward. Both Simpson and Nunez also picked up far too many fouls to keep the rotation clean, and issues like these will cost the maize and blue against stronger competition.
Teske time: If Michigan closed out the game like it should have, all of the headlines would have been focused on Jon Teske. The senior picked up exactly where last season ended, notching a double-double before halftime and having his way inside. Creighton has an extremely small lineup and will have trouble defending Teske all night. He should be a big focal point of the Michigan offense.
Creighton puts up a good fight but the Wolverines improve upon their mistakes and come out victorious in a back-and-forth matchup. 75-68 Michigan.
Teams: Creighton Blue Jays (1-0) at Michigan Wolverines (1-0)
Date: Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Location: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Television/Streaming: Fox Sports 1/Fox Sports Go