Men's Basketball

Charles Matthews helped craft Michigan's defensive identity last season.

There are varying answers for when that identity took hold. The correct one doesn’t particularly matter. It’s here now. It’s been here since the beginning of the season, and the Wolverines have lost five games. They play in the Big Ten Tournament final tomorrow. This is normal now. It has been normal for a long time.

Freshman center Colin Castleton savors the chance to keep winning in the Big Ten Tournament.

On Friday, the Wolverines beat Iowa, 74-53. On Saturday, they beat the Golden Gophers, 76-49. In both, the starters came out with a few minutes remaining, leaving the bench to ice the victory.

Freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis scored 13 points against Minnesota on Saturday.

CHICAGO — On the road in the Big Ten, Ignas Brazdeikis has already become a villain.

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Saturday afternoon against 7th-seeded Minnesota, 3rd-seeded Michigan (28-5 overall, 15-5 Big Ten) displayed those championship habits and then some, storming out to a 76-49 demolition of the Golden Gophers (21-13, 9-11). Just as the Big Ten regular-season title did last weekend in East Lansing, the tournament crown will come down to Michigan and Michigan State.

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CHICAGO — The whistle came just 28 seconds into the second half.

Then another, and another, and another and another, five Michigan fouls in two minutes.

Junior guard Zavier Simpson helped lead the Wolverines past Iowa with 11 assists.

That leadership, though, manifests itself best when he’s taking the ball up the court, springing teammates into open looks before returning to the other end and making sure Michigan’s opponent can’t do the same.

And for the next 30 minutes, Simpson did exactly that, leading the Wolverines to a 74-53 win.

Sophomore guard Eli Brooks got his confidence back by playing on the scout team at practice.

So the Michigan men’s basketball team faced a question: How could it get Eli Brooks back?

Why not make him someone else?

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No. 10 Michigan (27-5 overall, 16-5 Big Ten) moved on to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals with a blowout 74-53 win over Iowa (22-11, 10-11). And, after Minnesota knocked off Purdue earlier in the day, the path to a third-straight Big Ten Tournament final is falling into place.

John Beilein and the Michigan basketball team will begin the Big Ten Tournament on Friday.

Basketball in March is an adrenaline-based exercise. After a regular season of scheduled, staggered games against the same rotation of conference opponents, teams must prepare for opponents they haven’t seen on — at most — four or five days’ notice.

Michigan coach John Beilein's 2013 team also did not win the Big Ten regular season title, but then went on to make the Final Four that year.

As much as those reporters may have inadvertently learned about Beilein’s childhood agricultural findings, no group knows this as well as his 2013 team.