On Tuesday, the Michigan Wolverines opened the 2019-’20 season up with a home matchup against the Appalachian State Mountaineers. The Wolverines entered the game as significant favorites, but many were wondering how the team would look in Juwan Howard’s first official game at the helm.
Early on, Jon Teske pushed Michigan to a double-digit lead over the Mountaineers. Teske seemed to be everywhere on the court, hitting the boards and posting up. Michigan continued to use its play in the paint to push the lead out to 46-25 lead at half.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go as smoothly in the second half.
Despite jumping out to a 30-point lead for a period of time, Michigan struggled with Appalachian State’s zone defense in the second half and the Mountaineers used a number of Wolverine turnovers to get back in the game. It was a six-point game late, before Eli Brooks was able to finish things off for Michigan with a 79-71 final score.
So, what did we learn?
What We Learned:
1. Opening night went . . . alright?
Michigan didn’t have a perfect performance on Tuesday night, but the Wolverines were able to come out, get things rolling, and ended up walking away with a win. Things almost got away from the team in the second half, but Michigan was able to do just enough to grab a win in the closing minutes.
Let’s leave no confusion. Michigan should have won on Tuesday night. The Wolverines were a better team and had significantly more talent than Appalachian State. However, winning in college basketball is never an easy task. And when the game ended, Michigan walked away with a win. That shouldn’t be understated, especially in a new coach’s first game.
Whether Howard can come close to achieving what Beilein did in Ann Arbor remains to be seen, but night one ended in a victory. Things are going to get tougher in short order with Creighton coming to Ann Arbor in just a few days. However, fans can at least walk away from Michigan’s opening contest with the knowledge that the team is 1-0.
2. Jon Teske probably deserves some more love.
While a number of Big Ten players have received national media attention this offseason, one who has seemingly slipped under the radar is Teske. That isn’t to say people didn’t think highly of him, but Tuesday night’s performance should certainly turn some heads. Teske finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds, and one assist and announced himself as one of the better big men in the league.
Perhaps the most notable part of Teske’s performance is what he did down low. Under John Beilein, offensive rebounding was never a major point of emphasis. And while we all know what Beilein accomplished with the Wolverines, fans had to be excited about what Teske was showed on Tuesday night. Perhaps he’s one of the players that could benefit most from Michigan’s coaching transition. Either way, if he keeps this up, opponents better watch out.
3. Michigan’s going to have some interesting lineups this season.
Given the varying depth across Michigan’s roster this season, it seemed likely that the team would put some interesting lineups on the floor. This was even more true once it was learned that Franz Wagner had been sidelined with an injury.
Well, it only took one game for the interesting lineups to see action. Michigan started by putting Colin Castleton and Teske together on the floor (both are listed at 6-foot-11 or taller) and then followed that up by also putting Brandon Johns and Isaiah Livers on the floor with them. For at least one segment, Michigan was using four players listed at 6-foot-7 or taller, including two big men.
That’s, uh, not something you see every day.
It’s too early to see whether that will be a viable lineup once Michigan faces off against tougher competition, but Howard is clearly willing to put size on the floor. And with Castleton starting to figure things out, that has to get fans excited.
Things started out very well for the Wolverines on Tuesday night, but ended with some tension as Michigan almost blew things in the second half. Nonetheless, Michigan was able to get a victory on the opening night of Howard’s tenure with the program.
Michigan will now get a week off before it returns to action on Tuesday night at home against Creighton. It figures to be an intriguing game as the Blue Jays as rated as a top 40 team on KenPom. This should give fans their first view of how Howard’s team performs against a quality opponent.