Michigan point guard DeVante’ Jones had a disastrous first career NCAA Tournament thus far, and this has had nothing to do with his level of play.
Jones entered concussion protocol after taking an inadvertent elbow to the head in practice just days before the opening round game against Colorado State. Once Jones cleared protocol, he rejoined his victorious teammates and started the second round game against Tennessee.
During the first half against the Volunteers, Jones was beaten up — falling awkwardly on his wrist and taking hard contact when driving to the hoop. He also got hit inadvertently by Moussa Diabate, knocking him out for the rest of the game.
While head coach Juwan Howard and Jones have not specified exactly what kept him out of the second half, it came as no surprise after what he endured before and during this game.
Even without being kept in bubble wrap all week, Jones is on track to play this week. Jones has practiced the last two days and Howard provided further context about his veteran point guard.
“He practiced today and yesterday, so right now he’s looking good,” Howard said. “He’s improved a lot with his health. We will know more tomorrow morning as far as how he feels when it comes to recovery as he wakes up. But I keep my fingers crossed, and we’re praying that he will be available for tomorrow.”
Jones spoke about what this last week was like for him when he was unable to play or even travel with the team for their first round matchup with Colorado State.
“At first it was a little bit emotional for me, but then I got myself together, and just seeing how the team was playing so well, doing so great and getting victories. That’s the main thing for me,” Jones said. “Obviously I want to play here in March Madness, but the time I was just so happy for my teammates being able to win through that type of adversity.”
Freshman point guard Frankie Collins elevated his game in Jones’s absence contributing 14 points, six rebounds, two assists and an unrelenting defensive intensity. Jones elaborated further on what Collins brings to the Michigan basketball team.
“I knew it, and I tweeted it the day or two before that he’s going to get the job done,” Jones said. “He’s a great point guard. He’s young, but he understands his role on the team, you know, athletic, quick guard who can get downhill and score for himself or make plays for others. And he’s very good on defense as well. So he’s all around a great guard for us.
Although the Wolverines have managed without Jones for most of the first two games, Michigan will need Jones’ leadership and defensive instincts against a guard dominant team like Villanova that features Big East Player of the Year Colin Gillespie.
Jones is averaging 10 points, five rebounds and five assists on the season, and provides a calmness and creativity to offensive sets that is difficult to replicate.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Wolverines are currently a five-point underdog against Villanova.
When Jones is officially announced as active or inactive, expect this line to jump one to two points in either direction.