Big East meets Big Ten Tuesday as the Creighton Blue Jays face the Michigan Wolverines.
While the NBA recently poached Michigan’s top scorers and touchstone leader John Beilein, naturally, questions surround this Wolverine squad. Picked to finish mid-pack in a Big Ten they’ve dominated since 2018, Michigan’s fortunes rest on how untested players from last year’s roster and new coach Juwan Howard perform.
There’s little doubt Howard, a basketball lifer, NBA champion and longtime Erik Spoelstra assistant can match X’s and O’s with his sideline counterparts. Howard’s philosophy and coaching style should instantly mesh. The more immediate bind UM faces is if their lightly-used returnees can bolster seniors Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske. Both upperclassmen perfectly complimented Jordan Poole, Ignas Brazdeikis and Charles Matthews. That five led Michigan’s 2019 Elite Eight charge. Though with the latter three out chasing or living professional dreams, the Wolverine secondary and tertiary wave is unknown beyond sixth-man-turned-starter Isiah Livers.
In a positive sign, junior Eli Brooks (24 pts) lifted Simpson (6 pts, 6 ast), Teske (17 pts 13 rebs) and Livers (14 pts) during UM’s season-opening 79-71 win vs. Appalachian State. It’s worth noting on that festive night, featuring a fab-five reunion, Michigan became complacent and almost blew their 30-point second half lead vs. App State.
Such mental lapses would prove costly vs. Tuesday’s visitor Creighton. Returning four-fifths of last year’s NIT quarterfinal squad, tenured sideline leader Greg McDermott’s program enjoys the continuity Michigan lacks. Especially during early-season encounters, execution and late-game poise are vital.
Proficient from outside, and likely unaffected by an extended three-point line, Creighton poses danger for the soul-searching Wolverines.
Tonight’s winner will be the more prepared group. Creighton holds serious upset potential -and gained two more preseason top-25 votes than Michigan.
Creighton leaning on perimeter strength and experienceBehind Ty-Shon Alexander and Mitch Ballock, Creighton returns one of college basketball’s most accurate backcourts. Alexander (15.7 ppg, 97 3pt) earned Street & Smith’s 19-20 preseason Second-team All-American honors. Ballock (11.1 ppg, 95 3pt) can ignite on little notice. Davion Mintz (9.7 ppg, 3 apg) and Marcus Zegarowski (10.4 ppg) complete a group that made the most three-pointers (372) in Blue Jays history last season. Overall, Creighton’s 10.6 three-pointers per game ranked 10th NCAA.
Rostering potential All-American talent in Alexander, the Blue Jay’s next wave of expected contributors include Damien Jefferson, Christian Bishop and grad transfer Kelvin Jones. 6-11 Jones averaged 9.9 ppg and 5.6 rpg to cap his Idaho State run. Jones, along with Bishop, will add vital interior presence for this sharp-shooting collection which netted .387 of its treys last year.
Alexander (19 pts, 5 of 8 3pt), Zegarowski (18 pts, 4 of 5 3pt) and frosh Jalen Windham (8 pts, 2 of 4 3pt) used outside touch to blow past visiting Kennesaw State last week 81-55. Interior bruisers Bishop (12 pts, 7 rbs) and Jones (7 pts, 6 rbs) added balance vs. the overmatched Owls. Starting point guard Damion Mintz (high ankle sprain) missed the season opener and remains questionable for Tuesday's contest. Jacob Epperson is out for the season after breaking his leg during the late-October practice. Minus Epperson and lone non-returning starter Martin Krampelj, Jones is the Blue Jay’s only current player listed above 6’8.
Last season Creighton averaged 77.9 ppg (#53 NCAA) & allowed (73.2 ppg, #224 NCAA).
Michigan Basketball starts new eraNostalgia flooded Crisler Center Nov. 5 as historical Wolverine alumni Jimmy King and Jalen Rose offered Howard fraternal support. Howard on the significance of his former teammates’ presence, per ESPN:
“He (Rose) has a big schedule.I really appreciate the fact that he took time out of his schedule, not only to come, but he also brought his mom."
Following a night when the NCAA’s most influential past recruiting class uplifted their program, Michigan basketball unveiled its latest era. While the 79-71 final score and second-half lapse vs. lightly-regarded Appalachian State didn’t fit the script, Howard earned his first win as Wolverine’s head coach.
With formalities resolved, Michigan, and Howard, have used seven days to address those miscues which nearly erased their commanding season-debut lead.
After recent film sessions and intense practices, don’t expect inside-out tandem, Simpson and Teske, to allow another foot-off-the-pedal moment vs. Creighton. Though, as alluded to throughout, don’t expect Michigan’s easy-mannered recent dominance either tonight. Also factoring against the Wolverines is touted signee Franz Wagner’s doubtful availability. Wagner fractured his wrist in late Oct. and was given a four-to-six week recovery frame, per Detroit Free Press.
Opposite solid competition, minus familiar faces, and undergoing changes, tonight’s national showcase will provide an accurate early Michigan Basketball barometer.
Trends courtesy of Covers.com
- Bluejays are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
- Bluejays are 7-2 ATS in their last 9 games vs. a team with a winning straight up record.
- Bluejays are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 games following a straight up win.
- Wolverines are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 Tuesday games.
- Wolverines are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 non-conference games.