March Madness Round 64 Preview
Montana vs. Michigan
Third-seeded Michigan looks to continue its winning ways when it faces No. 14 seed Montana in the first round of the West regional on Thursday in Wichita, Kan. The Wolverines have ripped off nine consecutive wins, including four victories in four days in New York City to claim their second Big Ten tournament title in as many years, and hope a 10-day layoff doesn’t rob them of their momentum as they strive to advance to the second round of March Madness for the fourth time in their last five appearances.
“We got back to the gym to be competitive and get motivated for a really tough tournament,” Michigan forward Moritz Wagner told reporters. “We’ve been doing a great job and I don’t think this team needs a lot of help to be hungry.” Michigan is 11-4 in the NCAA Tournament since 2013 and hopes to make another deep run by taming the Grizzlies in the first-ever matchup between the teams. Montana went 16-2 in Big Sky Conference play before winning three straight in the conference tournament, including an 82-65 triumph over Eastern Washington in the final, to punch its Big Dance ticket for the first time since 2013. The Grizzlies have dropped 11 of their last 14 meetings with teams currently in the Big Ten and hope to notch their first win in the tournament since knocking off Nevada 87-79 in 2006.
TV: 9:50 p.m. ET, TBS
ABOUT MONTANA (26-7): Michael Oguine was named the Big Sky tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after averaging 21 points and five rebounds in wins against North Dakota, Northern Colorado and Eastern Washington. Oguine scored 15 of his team-leading 21 points in the second half while Ahmaad Rorie added 15 points and five assists to help the Grizzlies overcome a 10-point halftime deficit to win the conference tournament title. “We have a senior (Fabijan Krslovic) who has given his all to the program,” Rorie told reporters. “We didn’t want to play in the NIT as we wanted to get him in the tournament.”
ABOUT MICHIGAN (28-7): Wagner was named the MVP of the Big Ten tournament after averaging 15.7 points and 6.5 rebounds over four games at Madison Square Garden. Wagner scored 17 points while Muhammad-Ali-Abdur Rahkman, who was also named to the Big Ten All-Tournament team, added 15 points and four assists as the Wolverines knocked off Purdue 75-66 in the title game to avenge two regular-season losses to the Boilermakers. Starting forward Isaiah Livers suffered an ankle sprain early in the first half against the Boilermakers, but practiced during the week and is expected to be available Thursday.
1. Michigan has held seven of its last eight opponents to fewer than 67 points.
2. Montana is 15-0 when scoring 80 or more points this season.
3. The winner will play Houston or San Diego State in the second round Saturday.