Michigan, Minnesota are early surprises for different reasons

NCAA Men's Basketball

Minnesota and Michigan enter Saturday’s meeting in Ann Arbor thus far having different seasons than expected, but not for the same reason.

Michigan entered the season ranked No. 6 in the country and got as high as No. 4, but three losses in the nonconference season had the Wolverines reeling and out of the Associated Press Top 25.

However, the last two games have indicated that the Wolverines (6-3, 1-0 Big Ten) are becoming the team many expected to start the season.

The Wolverines earned a 72-58 home win over San Diego State on Saturday and then opened up Big Ten play with a 102-67 rout at Nebraska on Tuesday.

Michigan hit 15 shots from 3-point range against Nebraska and saw five players score in double figures.

“I was extremely happy to see the way the ball was moving,” Michigan head coach Juwan Howard said. “It was popping. It was great to see our guys sharing the ball. There were times when we passed the ball for a better shot when another guy was open… We did a really good job driving the basketball and not just settling for jumpers.”

On the other side, Minnesota (7-1, 0-1) entered the season with no expectations at all, picked to finish last in the Big Ten with a new coach in Ben Johnson and 13 new players on the roster following a bevy of transfers.

But Minnesota opened the season by winning its first seven games before Wednesday’s 75-67 home loss to No. 19 Michigan State in its Big Ten opener.

Trying to respond from its first loss of the season after eighth games was not a position many thought Minnesota would be in to start the year.

“I think when our guys give effort and play the right way, or play good basketball, people appreciate that,” Johnson said. “Especially our fan base. That is something we always try to do. We are going to play hard for 40 minutes, and we will try hard to fight, compete and play the right way.”

This will be the only meeting of the regular season between the Golden Gophers and Wolverines.

–Field Level Media

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