How to watch or stream
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: Fox Sports 1
Stream: Fox Sports Go (where available)
Let’s take a moment to remember the last time these two teams played.
What a game!
While this isn’t exactly the premier matchup of the Gavitt Games, it’s a very good one with an obvious built in storyline. The Wildcats are 2-0 on the season, as are the Wolverines. Both teams had big home wins over low-major teams.
In lieu of a traditional preview, I turned to Maize N’ Brew’s Sam Dodge to learn more about the Wolverines. You can find his answers below.
Big East Coast Bias: Obviously these two teams look very different than when they last met in April. How have the Wolverines compensated for the losses of Moritz Wagner, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and Duncan Robinson through the first two games?
Sam Dodge: Offensively, not yet.
All three between Wagner, Abdur-Rahkman and Robinson hit over 37% of their threes (everyone on Villanova says hold my beer). John Beilein’s offense has been able to rotate the ball to find open looks, but the shots aren’t falling. The Wolverines are 9-of-45 from deep in the first two games.
With that said, freshman Ignas Brazdeikis (31 points in two games) and Charles Matthews (30 points) have been able to slash and bully their way to the net. Not looking forward to trading twos with threes.
Defensively, well, this leads to our next question...
BECB: The Wolverines did an excellent job defensively limiting Norfolk State and Holy Cross in their two victories this season. Defense has been a big part of Michigan’s game throughout John Beilein’s tenure. Does that look to remain the case this year?
SD: Defensively, this team could be even better than last year’s No. 3 efficiency unit per Ken Pomeroy. 7-foot-1 Jon Teske is an imposing presence (nine blocks) with surprising mobility. Mo Wagner was a foul machine last year, so having an upgrade inside in Teske is a plus.
Point guard Zavier Simpson is back, and he shut down just about everyone he faced last year (amazingly even Jalen Brunson). Lastly, against Holy Cross, Beilein was forced to put Isaiah Livers at the five to combat Bill Carmody’s five-out offense. With just 37 points on 30% shooting, the move worked well.
Your question is fascinating, because Beilein’s teams were often defense-optional before 2017. In the three years before assistant coach (essentially defensive coordinator) Luke Yaklich arrived, the defense finished No 89, No. 100, No. 92 and No. 69 per KenPom.
What a difference one coach makes that Michigan is building a defensive reputation.
BECB: Who is a player that Villanova fans should keep an eye out for?
SD: Jordan Poole. The guy who hit the shot in the tournament.
His shot is off at the moment, but unless he regressed mightily this past summer, he should rising to the mean. He was a 37% shooter from beyond last year, and with more minutes would have averaged out to around 12-13 points a game. He’s incredibly good, as seen in the Houston buzzerbeater, at quickly squaring his shoulders to the basket, rising and following through on his form.
He may be 0-of-6 from three, so far. He’s a cocky kid that could get galvanized by playing on the big stage.
BECB: What do the Wolverines need to do to hang with Nova in this game?
SD: The defense needs to run shooters off the line, and funnel Villanova’s drives to Teske inside. It’s not as if the Wildcats are killing it from behind the arc, so far, so this is an opportunity to turn this game into a slugfest.
None of this matters if the Wolverines can’t shoot. Dating back to the first game of the Tournament, streaking shooting has led to seven of eight games of 1.01 points a game or worse. It’s kind of a minor miracle Beilein and company even made the Title Game with those numbers.
BECB: Who wins and why?
SD: Villanova by single digits. I actually think Michigan succeeds in turning this game into a slog, but won’t have the offense to prevail. If this was in Ann Arbor, I’d say Michigan. Not in Philly.