The past two Big Ten Tournaments have been a wild ride for John Beilien and the Michigan Wolverines. In 2017, Michigan came in fighting to secure a spot and a better seed in the NCAA tournament and entered the Big Ten tourney as an 8 seed and went on to win the championship game. Last season Michigan got hot at the end of the regular season and that carried into the Big Ten tourney having to start again on the Thursday in the second round as a five seed and absolutely ran through Nebraska, Michigan State and Purdue on their way to back to back Big Ten tourney titles.
This year Michigan got hot early in the non-conference knocking off big name ranked opponents like Villanova, North Carolina and Purdue and carried that energy into the first month of Big Ten play only to start to slip a little once they hit February suffering their first lost to Wisconsin in Madison. Since then Michigan has lost four more games and two to their in-state rival Michigan State. This years Big Ten tourney is not needed for better seeding in the NCCA tourney, although it may help, but more for getting back that swagger Michigan had the first three months of the season.
The Wolverines will enter the Big Ten Tourney as a three seed and will be looking to be three peat champions but to do so will need to find its perimeter shooting to go along with their stout defense. It all starts with Charles Matthews who hurt his ankle in the first game against MSU and has not played since. If Matthews is able to go, its not his three-point shooting that the Wolverines miss but its defense and ability to create turnovers that put Michigan in transition and give their shooters more open looks at threes instead of running the offense from the point which the last month or so Michigan has been doing. Matthews is also a stopper, in the sense of when the other team is on a run he can grab a bucket for Michigan and stop the bleeding.
The three-point shooting starts with Jordan Poole, Michigan’s best three point shooter. If he is able to get going early in games and knock one or two down, his rhythm seems to stay on the entire game and when Poole is hitting shots, it is a very good thing for Michigan. Iggy Brazdeikis has been an incredible threat from three this season shooting 42 percent from deep and has been the player that really has not disappeared for Michigan other than the Wisconsin game. With Matthews hopefully returning, Isiah Livers will once again assume the six man role and has been great off the bench beyond the arc all season when called upon.
A name to watch for Michigan who may receive more minutes is freshman point guard David Dejulius, who is supposed to have a great three-point shot but just has not received the court time to get enough shots off. Jon Teske and Zavier Simpson are your outliers who you'd rather not be shooting a majority of your threes but in games that they have connected from deep the Wolverines have won and usually they have won big.
As Michigan looks to start their chase for a three peat of Big Ten tourney titles against the Iowa Hawkeyes tonight, this time it won’t be for better positioning in the big dance but to regain the confidence that made Michigan look like a national title favorite.