The Michigan Wolverines (26-4) kept their regular season Big Ten Conference Championship hopes alive this afternoon with a 69-62 win over the Maryland Terrapins (21-9).
A close game throughout, Michigan was able to pull it out in a rowdy atmosphere at Maryland. Ignas Brazdeikis led all scorers piling in 21 points for the Wolverines.
Here are the takeaways from Michigan’s win on the road…
Zavier Simpson is the Most Important Wolverine
Zavier Simpson was phenomenal today. He tallied 12 points with 10 assists and became the catalyst that got Michigan into the driver’s seat late in the game.
He held Maryland’s best scorer, Anthony Cowan Jr., to just 10 points on 4-15 shooting including just 1-7 from three. It is clear the Zavier Simpson is the most important player on Michigan. He isn’t there most talented player or their best scorer, but he is definitely the player that brings it all together.
This was clear late in the second half. Maryland was going on a run while Michigan had gone cold from the field. Maryland took the lead and it didn’t look like Michigan had much of an answer. As soon as Simpson checked into the game, Michigan ended the game on a huge run picking up the seven-point win.
Simpson’s leadership is undeniable and his effort and control give him an incredible poise that carries over to the rest of the Wolverines. Michigan will go as far as Zavier Simpson takes them.
Simpson will lock down your best player, he’ll take care of the ball, and then he’ll shred your defense with one of the best hook shots I have ever seen from a player of his size. He may be unconventional, but he is the player that makes the number nine team in the country tick.
What’s with these Dry Spells?
Michigan’s offense struggled today. What’s new? They shot 43% from the floor and just 30% from three. This isn’t a surprise, as Michigan’s defense has been the Wolverine’s savior through much of the season.
There are many times where Michigan’s offense looks great. The ball is moving, players are cutting with purpose, and then they are hitting open shots. As soon as it looks like they have figured everything out, they go scoreless for four and a half straight minutes.
These are the types of lapses that Michigan cannot afford in tournament play. This is what cost them the game against Michigan State, and they are fortunate that it didn’t cost them today. Players aren’t perfect and they are bound to miss shots but something has to give.
There were multiple stretches during the game today where Michigan couldn’t buy a bucket three, four, five, or six possessions in a row. If they want to beat tier one opponents, someone will need to step up and score for them when it is needed most.
Inconsistent Bench Play
Speaking of stepping up, Michigan will need a boost from their bench once the Big Ten and NCAA tournament starts. Colin Castleton has logged minutes in two straight games and he has shown promise when Teske needs a breather.
Michigan will need more help than that. Eli Brooks and David DeJulius combined for zero points in 14 minutes. The only two points scored by the bench were from Castleton. It will certainly help when Michigan gets Charles Matthews back from injury so that Isaiah Livers can score for the second unit.
Even still, there will be games in the post-season where one of Michigan’s starters will be having an off night. The great teams are the ones that have one or two guys step up off the bench when the starters need a pick-me-up.
If someone from Michigan’s bench is able to step up, this team will become formidable in the Big Ten tournament and beyond.
Michigan has six days to prepare for their final game of the season, a rematch with rival Michigan State in East Lansing. After getting beat on their home floor just last week, Michigan should come out pumped up and ready to spoil the Spartan’s senior day.
This game has every indication of being a hard-fought, down to the end type of game. It’ll be up to Michigan to show up and make a statement to the Big Ten, and the rest of the country.
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