Who: Michigan Wolverines (3-0) vs. LSU Tigers (2-0)
Where: Lahaina Civic Center (Lahaina, Hawaii)
When: Monday, Nov. 20, 11:30 p.m. ET (6:30 pm HST)
Point spread: Michigan -5
Listen: Detroit: WWJ-950 AM; Ann Arbor: WWWW-102.9 FM
Tickets: MauiInvitational.com ($85)
Twitter: Follow @andy_mcdonald23
Wins are wins, and no one can take that from the Michigan basketball team.
However, how the Wolverines got to 3-0 wasn't as easy as many people may have figured it to be against its first three opponents of North Florida, Central Michigan and Southern Mississippi.
“No, I don’t enjoy the (high pressure) situations,” said Michigan head coach John Beilien when a reporter asked about how he felt about playing in close games. “They can have value, but I don’t prefer it.”
In this situation, a win or a loss means two completely different scenarios.
If Michigan were to lose against the Tigers tonight, they would likely play the tournament’s host, Division II Chaminade, with the a win/loss not counting towards the Wolverines final record. A win against LSU sets a likely date up with No. 13 Notre Dame, a game that provides resume boosting and some self-reflection on where this 2017-18 team is at.
Here are some things to look for from Michigan as they prepare for the Maui Invitational tonight.
Big’s making strides
Arguably the brightest spot of Michigan’s first three games was the performance sophomore forward Jon Teske put on against Southern Mississippi.
The 7-foot-1 Teske recorded his first-career double-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds in 15 minutes of play.
Teske said everyday in practice he is getting better and his coaches are picking up on it.
“(Moritz Wagner) didn’t have a great day today but we know he will bounce back,” Teske said. “I just went out there and played my game and my teammates and coaches are pushing me to be better, telling me they know I am capable of doing what I did tonight.”
While Moritz Wagner did have 12 points and six boards against the Golden Eagles, he only played 24 minutes and went 0-for-2 from deep, making him one for his last six from beyond the arc.
The important point is, though, Wagner is still on the right track and from past success, it’s likely he will clean up the mistakes. Now adding Teske to the mix with effectiveness, could be a large answer to an offseason question that was very uncertain.
When Beilein was asked about playing both bigs at the same time, he said it could happen, but it depends on the opposition and Wagner’s ability to guard a stretch-four.
Point guard play
Coming off the heals of his best game in a Michigan uniform, sophomore point guard Zavier Simpson took a step back in game three.
Jaaron Simmons was there to step up.
Against Central Michigan, Simpson had a career-best 13 points to go along with three assists. However, CMU’s point guard dropped 21 points on the Wolverines that night as well.
USM point guard Tyree Griffin lead all scorers with 15 points, shooting 50 percent from deep. Simpson, who started for Michigan, had no points and took just one shot.
Simmons meanwhile, didn't have flashy numbers (two points, five assists) but was in the game for both of the runs Michigan went on early and in the second half to beat USM.
Beilein said right now what he really likes about Simmons is he knows players won’t play if they don’t play defense and really guard the ball and buy into all of it.
“(Simmons) really defended well out there tonight and it paid dividends for us,” Beilein said following UM’s 61-47 win over USM. “He wants to play minutes, well then you need to go out there and really guard and you will get more minutes.”
While Simpson did total 22 minutes compared to Simmons 19, Beilein seemed to be hinting towards Simmons defense being better as of late which could earn him more time.
Getting a signature win
As Beilein said, Michigan is still a team really trying to figure out who they are. This opening game of the Maui Invitational will serve as a measuring stick without a doubt.
While the Tigers went just 10-21 a season ago, they have a new coach — William Wade — who led his team to a pair of double digit wins to start the season. The defensive end is where LSU has struggled, as they allowed 86 points to Samford in its second game. Michigan has struggled to find consistent shooting, which should leave an interesting matchup.
Michigan is a 3-point shooting team, and Samford went 15-for-29 against LSU. It’s one where the Wolverines will be favored, and seeing how Michigan’s new faces and returning players with different roles react will be a key point of emphasis in this one.
Who else is in the Tournament?
Here’s a look at the full 2017-18 Maui Invitational bracket.
Norte Dame and Michigan is a second round matchup that would present two coaches — Beilein and Mike Brey — who are both known for developing players with offensive skill.
It would make for a rematch of the 2016 NCAA Tournament First Round where Michigan held the lead for a majority of the game but allowed the Irish to comeback and walk out with a 70-63 win.
Elsewhere, Chaminade would be the likely opponent for the Wolverines with a loss unless they shocked the world by topping ND.
In 1982, they best No. 1 Virginia which sparked making the invitational two years later. They are 7-90 all-time in the event.
Marquette, VCU, California and Wichita State will also be participants in this years games. During Michigan’s 2013-14 run to the NCAA Championship game, the Wolverines beat VCU and were in the same Final Four as Wichita State.