Michigan basketball's early season tournament is less competitive than most of the ones they've competed in recently. The Wolverines passed their first test with ease, dispatching a bad George Washington team 84-61 and advanced to the finals of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament to face either Providence or South Carolina. George Washington is winless and had lost to common opponent Holy Cross; Michigan handled them as well as a possibly top-tier team should.
A noon-tip off in a game held inside a mostly empty casino is a weird environment, but the Wolverines got off to a hot start and turned in their most efficient offensive performance of the season. The gameplan called for a lot of mid-post isos for Charles Matthews on the left side of the floor at the beginning of the game, and junior was effective, drawing fouls and hitting a fadeaway. It was the start of what would be one of the most impressive performances in Matthews's career: he scored 25 points on very efficient shooting and displayed a lot of NBA-quality moves in the mid-range throughout the game.
Once Isaiah Livers checked in for Jon Teske at the first TV timeout, Michigan went on a 22-5 run, featuring a couple of wide-open Livers threes and a mini-scoring binge from Jordan Poole, who had been having a rough season. It was an impressive performance for Poole, who looked much more like the dynamic scorer he is. Poole also had a stretch in the second half where he hit three three-pointers in consecutive possessions, and he finished with 22 points. He and Matthews combined for 17-25 shooting from the field (7-10 from three) and 7-8 from the free throw line.
George Washington managed to cut a much larger deficit to six, mostly on the shoulders of Illinois transfer DJ Williams, who had a personal 10-0 scoring run and finished as the Colonials' leading scorer. After a hot start, Michigan's offense had gone cold - Ignas Brazdeikis had a rough first half and Brandon Johns was quiet in his minutes as the third center (in place of Austin Davis, who was out with an injury). By halftime, Michigan was up just nine, and the offense had cooled off to just a shade over a point per possession.
From the start of the second half until the freshmen subbed in with about six minutes left, the Wolverines were on fire and ran the Colonials out of the gym. Michigan's three-point shooting was bound to regress to the mean, and a 15-30 performance on a lot of wide open looks was a corrective to some unsustainably poor outside shooting from the small sample of games entering today. Zavier Simpson hit two back-to-back corner threes and finished with four, all in the second half; Poole had the aforementioned sequence of nine points in three possessions; Iggy got involved; Matthews stayed hot. Simpson turned in a complete all-around game: 14 points, a Waltonesque 11 rebounds, and 8 assists, many of which came in transition after rebound or a forced turnover, and he was especially impactful in the second half as Michigan pulled away.
At one point, Michigan led by almost forty points, and some shaky play from the reserves tightened the margin some. Still, the Wolverines reached over 1.2 points per possession and held the Colonials to under 0.9. Some rest late in the game for Matthews and Simpson should have them fresh for tomorrow's matchup against Providence or South Carolina, teams that would probably rate as bottom half Big Ten teams, but who represent a big uptick in quality from George Washington.
[Box score after the JUMP]