After a wild finish to the Big Ten Championship against the Michigan State Spartans, the Michigan Wolverines found themselves on the wrong side of yet another game against the Spartans. Despite losing six games this season, three of which came from the Spartans, the Wolverines were named a No. 2 seed in the Division I NCAA Tournament, being placed in the West region of the bracket.
Michigan will face off against the No. 15 seeded Montana Grizzlies on Thursday March 21, at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa. The game is set to tip at 9:20 p.m. ET, on TNT.
The Grizzlies punched their own ticket to the tournament coming into round one fresh off a Big Sky Tournament championship. The Grizzlies may have the hot hand at the moment, but they have not seen any competition similar to that of the Wolverines in over a year. The Wolverines last played the Grizzlies one year ago in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, where Michigan easily handled the Grizzlies, beating them by fourteen points.
All signs point to a superior Michigan team running over the Grizzlies in the first round of tournament for the second year in a row. Although Michigan may breeze through the first round of the tournament, if they want to make a legitimate championship push, it is imperative that they play fundamentally sound basketball, similarly to how they won their first seventeen games to open up the season.
Jon Beilein’s disciplined Michigan defense should be focussed on locking down Montana’s two top players, senior forward Jamar Akoh and senior guard Ahmaad Rorie. Despite both averaging over fifteen points per game, this should be easily handled by the number five ranked defense in the country (per ESPN). Michigan’s Zavier Simpson heads the lethal Michigan defense and should hold the Grizzlies in check.
The Wolverines are favored to win their Thursday matchup against the Grizzlies by 15.5 points and I would be shocked if they fail to cover the spread. After a devastating loss this past Sunday against the Spartans, the Wolverines are angry, fired up, and ready to show that they are one of the most powerful teams in the country. I do not see them taking their foot off the gas pedal at any moment during the game. This game will act as a good morale booster for the Wolverines and will likely result in a towering victory over an inferior Montana basketball team.