Heading into Wednesday night, many had Michigan’s trip to Villanova circled as one of the best early matchups of the season. The two teams faced off in last year’s national championship game and the Wolverines would get an opportunity to get revenge against the Wildcats in this year’s Gavitt Games.
But early on, it became apparent that the game wouldn’t live up to the hype.
Because Michigan was going to take Villanova to the woodshed.
During the course of the game, Michigan’s defense suffocated Villanova, forcing 21 turnovers on the night and leading the Wolverines to a 73-49 victory. The game was never competitive and Michigan was able to unload the bench in the final minutes.
So, what did we learn?
What We Learned:
1. We need to stop underestimating John Beilein.
It seems like every year, we enter the season with underwhelming expectations for the Wolverines. Fans and the media alike expect the team to regress from the year prior and struggle during the early portions of the season.
And just about every year, we get it wrong.
Year after year, John Beilein and his staff find a way to defy the odds and get Michigan back into contention in the Big Ten and beyond. And it’s clear that’s happening yet again. The Wolverines were major underdogs coming into Wednesday’s matchup, but shocked the country and took it to Villanova.
Maybe next year, we’ll learn. But until then, Beilein and his group can chuckle about the doubters yet again.
2. Michigan’s defense looks for real.
While Michigan has been known as an offensive program for most of Beilein’s tenure, Michigan was actually a defensive-led team last season. The Wolverines finished third nationally in defensive efficiency and suffocated many opponents down the stretch.
Through three games, it looks like that defense is back again.
During Wednesday’s matchup against the defending national champions, Michigan’s defense was incredibly impressive. The Wolverines forced Villanova into 21 turnovers and held the Wildcats to their lowest scoring total since early 2013.
From a points perspective, the last time Villanova was this anemic in any game actually came at home on Jan. 16, 2013. Jamie Dixon and Pitt put Nova into a 58-43 submission. Nova at 43 now, with 90 seconds to go.— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) November 15, 2018
Whether the defense holds up remains to be seen, but it’s hard not to be impressive by Michigan’s play on the defensive side of the court so far. And don’t look now, but Michigan already has the third-ranked defensive in efficiency on KenPom. Yet again.
3. Ignas Brazdeikis is someone to watch for the Wolverines.
The Big Ten welcomed an immensely talented freshmen class this year, but one player who might have slipped under the radar is Ignas Brazdeikis. Well, he didn’t slip under the radar on Wednesday night. He ended up finishing with 18 points and seven rebounds for his third double-digit scoring performance of the season.
Perhaps the most exciting thing for Wolverine fans is that Brazdeikis still has so much room to grow. Keep an eye on the Canadian as the season continues to unfold.
4. This is a huge win for the Big Ten, too.
Any fan of the Big Ten knows that last season was a down year for the league. Only four teams ended up making the NCAA Tournament and only one of them (Michigan) ended up overachieving its seeding. All told, it was largely a year to forget for the Big Ten.
Well, scoring a win like Michigan did on Wednesday will go a long way for the Big Ten. It’s going to add national relevance to the Wolverines and every game the team plays going forward. It will take more than a few wins in November for the Big Ten to improve on last season, but this is a great start.
Michigan scored a huge win on Wednesday night that will send shockwaves through the college basketball community. It’s a win that should remind fans about Beilein’s coaching acumen and the team’s postseason goals.
The Wolverines will now prepare to head to Connecticut for the Hall of Fame Classic, where the team will face George Washington on Saturday.