Michigan was never in any trouble of losing during its opening round matchup against the Montana Grizzlies on Thursday night in their first round NCAA Tournament draw, which was a 74-55 victory to advance to the Round of 32 and take on the Florida Gators (ugh, different sport, but again?!!).
This was a pretty thorough butt-whipping and you could tell at times the Wolverines were just coasting through it, which was a little bit dangerous because Montana did get it to single-digits early on in the second half. However, the Wolverines responded and did what a No. 2 seed is supposed to do to a No. 15 seed that is overmatched.
Here are some quick takeaways from the game:
- Postseason Charles Matthews is back after a decent showing last weekend in Chicago that did not result in much on the scoreboard. However, he broke out again on Thursday night with 22 points and 10 rebounds a year after putting up a similar statline against this same team in this same situation. We will see if he is just getting started, but if that is the guy they are going to get in this tournament, Michigan could once again be dangerous if his teammates can step up around him.
- Speaking of his teammates, it was a bit of a “meh” night for everyone else, especially Zavier Simpson, who had only four points that were matched by four turnovers. He did finish the night with 10 assists and seven rebounds, but it was a sloppy showing for a team that prides itself on taking care of the basketball. He has been so locked in with some of his passes lately that at times tonight, it looked like some of his feeds were of the heat check variety, if there is even such a thing in basketball with your assist game. I wouldn’t put too much into it, but hopefully he and his teammates, who finished with 12 turnovers on the night, were just getting it out of their system.
- Michigan is going to need more from Jordan Poole, who seems as if he has been in a slump that has spanned half the season. His performance was not too reckless tonight simply because he did not take many shots and was only 2-for-4 from the floor and finished the night with 10 points. You would love to see him break out and take a step forward, but it is also sort of scary to think he may have to shoot his way out of it to happen. He was not needed much, but he will be soon and we will have to see how he holds up under pressure because he has a tendency to coast through games.
- Ignas Brazdeikis continues to do some impressive things on the offensive end of the floor, but still has lapses defensively and is inconsistent. Still, he was aggressive and found his way to the free throw line and finished with 14 points on the night. He is not the lead dog offensively just yet, but he has a way of quietly filling up a stat sheet.
- Given the fact that Montana was forced to play small, it was no surprise that Michigan went right to Jon Teske early on. He finished the night with 11 points and nine rebounds and thank goodness he was not injured on a bit of a scary fall early in the game, as the team’s lack of consistent depth at the position has been a story all season long.
- Michigan was able to get 13 points off of its bench tonight, eight of which came from Isaiah Livers. They’ll need him and Eli Brooks to keep playing solid basketball and it was nice to see them able to empty things out for the third time in their last four postseason games this year. I can’t help but shake this feeling that at some point, Colin Castleton and/or David DeJulius are going to be put in an important situation(s) somewhere along the line in this tournament and the extra minutes right now are crucial.
Quick thoughts on Florida
This is certainly a bit more of an ideal matchup for the Wolverines on Saturday, but they cannot afford to sleep on the Gators. They defend extremely well and their switches on that end of the floor was giving Nevada problems. Where Michigan can take control of this matchup is by getting out and running a bit and using their defense to set up the offense. Nevada was able to get back into the game via a full court press that Florida had some issues with.
We’ll dive more into Florida before Saturday’s matchup, but all in all, tonight was a win for Michigan not only in their game, but in terms of the matchup that they get out of it, too.