American Charles Matthews talks about returning to the starting eleven with a 74-53 win over Iowa in the quarter-finals of the Big Ten tournament on March 15, 2019.
Nick Baumgardner, Freep
Free Press sports editor Nick Baumgardner answers three questions about Michigan's 74-53 win over Iowa in the quarter-finals of the Big Ten tournaments:
Did Michigan rediscover the offense?
The Big Ten tournament can be a catalyst. And like all tournaments, it's all about matchups. Iowa is the worst defensive team in the Big Ten. Michigan even had some pretty choppy days against some of the league's lowest defenders.
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There was no problem Friday night in Chicago as Michigan (27-5) fired on all cylinders in a way that has not been around for some time. For Michigan, the Big Ten tournament has to be about it. Find the offense again.
It might be too early to call this a trend, as Iowa is a pretty poor defensive team, but Michigan did a great job on Friday night's football and drew most of the attention when they were there. The Wolverines had 20 assists for their first 22 baskets. That's pretty wild.
Also the balance was great. Michigan pleaded with Backup Point Watcher Eli Brooks to play more aggressively with more confidence. He made it on Friday and gave Michigan some big minutes when he knocked a pair of 3-pointers from the first half.
So the question: Was it more with Michigan's offense or the defense of Iowa? Maybe a little bit of both. Well, where's it going: On Friday night, the Wolverines resembled the John Beilein Tournament teams we've gotten used to in recent years.
And maybe a small impulse was created.
Can Eli Brooks do that again?
Soon after Beilein put him in the game, he watched as Brooks opened up and fired a great view from the 3-point area. The shot looked good, but the ball barely came out. Beilein turned visibly frustrated to his bank and almost asked to do something for his backup pointkeeper.
Eli Brooks shoots in the second half against Iowa Nicholas Baer. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)
Ultimately, it did. Brooks gave Michigan its best minutes from the bench on Friday. He hit a pair of open 3-pointers in the first half. He had three templates. He defended well. He kept the ball moving, forcing Iowa to guard him.
It may not seem significant, but if Michigan can get 10 to 15 really good minutes out of Brooks in March 10 to 10, things will be a lot easier for the Wolverines.
Michigan found a few years ago with Jaaron Simmons, who had big moments in March. If Brooks can get the most out of his minutes and at least a threat is enough to keep the team's defensive tone honest, that would be huge for a Michigan limited-bank team.
What about Minnesota?
Michigan does not have to leave Purdue's second place behind to return to the third Big Ten title game. # 7 Minnesota shot down the Boilermakers on Friday night and set up a third matchup between the Wolverines and Gophers in the second semi-final on Saturday.
Michigan won the previous meetings, with his defense leading the way both times. The Wolverines held Minnesota at 59 and 60 points this season, both beating leading scorer Amir Coffey on both occasions.
Charles Matthews was back in the starting XI on Friday and looked healthy. If he can stop Coffey, Jordan Murphy (Minnesota), who lost 27 points to Purdue, will put even more pressure on him.
Beating a team three times is never easy and Minnesota may play the best basketball of the season.
But if Michigan can achieve another offensive performance, as was the case on Friday night, the Wolverines can win 3: 3 against the Gophers.
A win on Saturday, by the way, seems to be enough to lock the Wolverines into number 2 in the NCAA tournament.
Contact Nick Baumgardner at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @nickbaumgardner . Read more about the Michigan Wolverines and subscribe to our Wolverines newsletter.