Montana, Michigan Paired Up Once Again

Montana is headed back to the NCAA tournament, and it will begin Thursday vs. a familiar opponent. The Grizzlies were matched up with Michigan, a rematch of last year’s first-round game

Joining No. 15 Montana and No. 2 Michigan in Des Moines are No. 7 Nevada and No. 10 Florida. The two winners will advance to play again on Saturday.

“I’m looking forward to it,” head coach Travis DeCuire said. “We’re excited to be in the tournament two years in a row now. We talk about setting a precedent. We made it, now it’s just ‘Go play the best basketball you can play on the biggest stage.'”

Michigan is 28-6 on the year, playing in the Big Ten championship game on Sunday afternoon. The Wolverines have been to the NCAA tournament nine times in John Beilein’s 12 seasons, including four Sweet 16 appearances and two Final Fours. A year ago, after playing Montana in the opening round, Michigan advanced to the title game, finishing runner-up. Ignas Brazdeikis and Zavier Simpson were both named second-team All-Big Ten, with three other players being recognized.

Photo Courtesy of Montana SportsInformation

Montana will be playing in the NCAA tournament for the 12th time in program history, including the fifth time in the past decade. The Grizzlies are returning to March Madness for the second consecutive season after winning the Big Sky Conference tournament this weekend in Boise, Idaho. The Grizzlies, playing as the No. 1 seed after also winning the regular-season championship, are 26-8 – tied with last year’s quad for the third-most wins in school history.

Senior Bobby Moorehead acknowledged that he was surprised that the committee paired the two teams against each other once again, but that he’s excited for the matchup.

“I thought we played well against them early last year, we just fell apart in the second half. That’s encouraging. I know they have a lot of the same guys back, we have a lot of the same guys back, so I’m excited. I think it will be a good matchup.”

Over the past two seasons, Montana has won 52 games, the most ever over a two-year stretch.

Playing as the No. 1 seed after winning the regular-season championship, Montana defeated Sacramento State in the quarterfinals before dismantling Weber State in the semifinals. The 29-point win was Montana’s largest in conference tournament history. On Saturday, the Grizzlies overcame a 12-point deficit to beat Eastern Washington and punch their ticket. They became the fifth Big Sky program ever to win back-to-back regular-season and tournament titles.

Montana played three NCAA tournament teams during the non-conference portion of its season, beating Georgia State and North Dakota State and falling narrowly at UC Irvine.

Thursday’s game will be televised on TNT, with Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner and Dana Jacobson on the broadcast team. Tickets can be purchased beginning Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. by calling (406) 243-4051, visiting the Adams Center ticket office or going online. Tickets are $110 for Montana’s session (two games on Thursday).

Montana’s NCAA Tournament History

Year Round Opponent Result Location
1975 R32 Utah State W, 69-63 Pullman, Wash.
R16 UCLA L, 67-64 Portland, Ore.
Con. UNLV L, 75-67 Portland, Ore.
1991 R64 UNLV L, 99-65 Tucson, Ariz.
1992 R64 Florida State L, 78-68 Boise, Idaho
1997 R64 Kentucky L, 92-54 Salt Lake City, Utah
2002 R64 Oregon L, 81-62 Salt Lake City, Utah
2005 R64 Washington L, 88-77 Boise, Idaho
2006 R64 Nevada W, 87-79 Salt Lake City, Utah
R32 Boston College L, 69-56 Salt Lake City, Utah
2010 R64 New Mexico L, 62-57 San Jose, Calif.
2012 R64 Wisconsin L, 73-49 Albuquerque, N.M.
2013 R64 Syracuse L, 81-34 San Jose, Calif.
2018 R64 Michigan L, 61-47 Wichita, Kan.

ABOUT THE GRIZ

  • Montana has won back-to-back Big Sky Conference regular-season and tournament championships. The Grizzlies have won the Big Sky 23 times overall (12 regular season, 11 tournament).
  • The team’s 26 wins are tied for the third-most in school history. The 52 wins over the past two seasons are more than ever before.
  • Montana has posted a .500 or better record in 11 consecutive seasons and has won 20-plus games in four of five seasons under Travis DeCuire.
  • Senior Ahmaad Rorie was named the Big Sky tournament MVP, also earning first-team All-Big Sky honors for the second year in a row. Junior Sayeed Pridgett (first team), Michael Oguine (third team and all-tournament team) and Kendal Manuel (Top Reserve and Co-Newcomer of the Year) were also recognized by the league.
  • Montana is shooting .497 on the season (7th in NCAA), and has made at least half of its shots 19 times.
  • Montana has made at least eight three-pointers in a game 22 times this season. The Grizzlies hit that number just four times in 2017-18. Overall, Montana is shooting .380 from deep (30th in the NCAA).
  • Montana has held opponents under their season scoring average in 28 of 34 games.
  • Montana is one of 12 schools nationally with three 1,000-point scorers on its current roster.
  • Ahmaad Rorie and Michael Oguine both joined the 1,500-point scoring club last month, two of nine players in Griz history to reach the career milestone. Rorie was the fastest to do so in school history.
  • Sayeed Pridgett is averaging 20.1 points per game over the past 13 contests, leading the Griz for scoring nine times. Overall, his .610 shooting percentage ranks 19th nationally.
  • In addition to more than 1,600 career points (sixth in school history), Oguine ranks third for career steals (160) and is among the leaders for career starts (122). He is one of six active players in Division I with 1,500 career points, 600 rebounds and 150 steals.
  • Travis DeCuire won his 100th career game on Feb. 9. He now has 109 wins, more than any UM coach through his first five seasons. His .657 winning percentage is the best in Big Sky history among coaches with three or more years.
  • Three of Montana’s top-seven rotation players are Pac-12 transfers.
  • Montana has won 26 of its past 28 home games dating back to February 2017. The Grizzlies drew more than 4,000 fans per game, a better average than three Pac-12 schools.
  • Montana returned four starters and more than 85 percent of its scoring from last year’s NCAA tournament team.
  • Only Hartford, Nevada and Jacksonville State average more years of experience than Montana (2.49 years per player).
  • With a veteran group, four starters have played in 100 or more career games. Montana’s four seniors have started a combined 348 games during their Griz careers, including every game played over the past two seasons. Senior Bobby Moorehead has played in a school-record 133 games, starting 71 in a row.
  • 2018 all-conference forward Jamar Akoh has missed the past 11 games with a knee injury. He has missed 18 games overall this season.