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Key Matchups: Michigan vs. Seton Hall

The Wolverines welcome in Seton Hall for their first game since 1989.

NCAA Basketball: Buffalo at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 4 Michigan Wolverines (2-0) host Seton Hall (2-0) Tuesday in Ann Arbor for the seventh year of the Gavitt Tipoff Games.

Since the start of the Gavitt Games in 2015, the Wolverines are 2-1 while the Pirates are 2-2. For Seton Hall, this will be its first road game of the season after defeating the Faileigh Dickinson Knights and Yale Bulldogs by a combined 80 points. Michigan hosts its second home game of the season after beating Prairie View A&M Panthers 77-49 at a neutral sight this past weekend.

These two programs have met only twice in their history, with both games coming in the calendar year of 1989, but split between two different seasons. They first met in the 1989 National Championship where Michigan, led by Glen Rice, claimed its first and only championship. They met the next season and the Wolverines won that contest as well. Now, 32 years later, these teams will meet again for the first time at Crisler.

The Pirates are off to a good start after going 14-13 last year. They retained three of their starters from last year’s lineup while gaining three transfers. Senior standout Jared Rhoden, named to the preseason All-Big East First Team and Jerry West Award Watchlist, missed the first game of the season due to an ankle injury. Despite this, Seton Hall handedly took down FDU 93-49 in the home opener. Transfers Alexis Yetna and Kadary Richmond elevated the Pirates to their most recent win over Yale, with 15 and 13 points respectively, while providing Seton Hall with the much needed depth for their tournament hopes.

Rhoden returned to play two days ago, a good sign for the Pirates, scoring eight points off the bench on 37.5 percent shooting from the floor. He leads the team in rebounds after pulling in 10 against Yale. Tyrese Samuel, a junior forward, shares Rhoden’s affinity for rebounds, averaging 10 as well. He currently averages 13 PPG on 50% shooting. Myles Cale, a senior guard, leads the team with 13 PPG on 47.4% shooting, while shooting 50% from three. He currently leads the team in steals, averaging three per game.

Bryce Aiken, a transfer from Harvard who fell on Michigan’s radar last season, has given the Pirates meaningful minutes, averaging 12 PPG on 61.5% shooting. He leads the team in three-point percentage (71.4), making five of his seven attempts. Yetna, a senior transfer from France, averages 11 PPG, proving to be another shooter for the Pirates with 53.8% from the floor and 51.7% from three.

Michigan has started the season in a similar fashion, hoping to build upon last year’s 23-5 performance. The return of Eli Brooks and Hunter Dickinson, with the addition of transfer DeVante’ Jones, has given Michigan the experience necessary to guide the primarily young roster. The freshmen have made an immediate impact as expected, with Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate proving to be critical elements for this team’s early season success. Michigan has also highlighted its deep roster by utilizing many different lineups, exposing a 10-man rotation to meaningful in-game minutes.

Dickinson, Michigan’s sophomore center, leads the team in both points and rebounds, averaging 19 and eight, respectively. Brooks, a senior guard, leads the team in threes made, averaging 57.1 % on seven attempts. Jones currently leads the team in both assists and steals, averaging five and 1.5, respectively.

While the more senior members of the team lead the stat column, the freshmen don’t fall too far behind. Diabate leads the team in blocks with 1.5 per game while averaging 6.5 PPG. Terrance Williams II, a sophomore forward, has had a breakout year so far. He averages 11.5 PGG on 53.8% shooting from the floor and 50% shooting from three. Houstan has been electric and averages 12 PPG with 52 FG% and 41.7 3P% shooting so far.

Seton Hall will put up more of a fight than a lot of us would anticipate. The game will likely be close, but Michigan should pull ahead in the end. The Wolverines have the extended talent necessary to pull off the win, but in their first couple games, their less than stellar free throw shooting and turnover rate are areas they need to improve. Seton Hall has averaged 9.5 steals through two games, and Michigan has to be wary of being too turnover happy.

Michigan comes as a true test road test for Seton Hall. In two games, the Pirates have scored an average of 86.4 points while allowing 46.5 points to their opponent. Shooting-wise, they average 47.7% from the floor and 43.8% from three. They outmatch the Wolverines in blocks (7.0) and steals (9.5) currently, which could be to their advantage should they put the pressure on the Wolverines defensively.

Michigan enters this game trailing Seton Hall in every statistical category besides assists and FG%. The Pirates average 82.5 PPG while shooting 50% from the floor and 36.4% from three. The Wolverines have allowed 62.5 PPG, with 4.5 steals and 3.5 blocks on average. Early season stats are not completely indicative of the season as a whole, and it is too early to explicitly determine what each team’s identities are, but this game should be an insightful look into who these teams could be by the end of the season.

The Wolverines host the Pirates tomorrow at 9 p.m. on FS1.