MONTANA VS. MICHIGAN
NCAA Tournament First Round
Thursday, March 15 / 7:50 p.m. MT / Wichita, Kan.
Radio: KGVO (1290 AM/98.3 FM)
Radio: Westwood One (Sirius: 145 / XM: 203 / Internet: 964)
Live Stats: TBD
Montana has advanced to the NCAA tournament for the 11th time, including the seventh appearance this century. Montana is 2-11 all-time in the Big Dance, beating Utah State in 1975, its first-ever tournament game, and upsetting No. 5 seed Nevada in 2006.
LOOKING FOR AN UPSET
In 2006, 12th-seeded Montana upset fifth-seeded Nevada to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Montana will look to knock off another highly ranked team this week in third-seeded Michigan. Over the past five seasons, five No. 14 seeds have beaten a No. 3 seed.
- Michigan is 28-7 overall including 7-1 on a neutral court.
- Michigan enters the NCAA tournament as one of the nation’s hottest teams, winning nine consecutive games, including the Big Ten tournament for the second consecutive season.
- The Wolverines are ranked No. 7 in both major polls this week.
- Michigan takes incredibly good care of the basketball, averaging just 9.1 turnovers per game (second in NCAA); Montana, on the flip side, ranks 21st nationally for turnovers forced (15.5).
- Michigan can shoot from long range, with 43 percent of its points coming from behind the arc (9.1 threes per game, 51st in NCAA).
- The Griz (+9.4; 36th) and Wolverines (+10.9; 18th) hold two of the highest scoring margins in the country.
- For everything that Michigan does incredibly well, it ranks among the bottom fifth of the country for rebounding (33.31 per game; 286th) and free-throw shooting (65.9 percent; 326th).
- Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman has the nation’s best assist-to-turnover ratio (5.04) He also ranks 12th for total minutes played.
- Moritz Wagner is the Wolverines’ top scorer (14.5 points per game) and rebounder (7.1).
- Averaging nearly 15 assists per game, Michigan has three players with at least 90 dimes.
- Three players are in double figures for scoring, with a total of six averaging at least 6.3 points per game.
- John Beilein is in his 11th season leading Michigan. The veteran coach has nearly 800 career victories and led Michigan to the 2013 national championship game.
- Michigan has advanced to the NCAA tournament in six of the past seven seasons.
SERIES VS. THE WOLVERINES
Montana and Michigan will meet on the hardwood for the first time on Thursday. Montana is 3-15 all-time against current members of the Big Ten, beating Nebraska in 1959-60 and 1982-83, and Minnesota in 2006-07.
- Montana earned the Big Sky Conference’s automatic qualifier last week by winning the league tournament in Reno, Nev. Montana faced second-half deficits in all three games before closing strong to win all three games.
- Montana played as the No. 1 seed after winning the regular-season championship. It marked the school’s 11th regular-season title in school history and the second in four seasons under head coach Travis DeCuire.
- Montana’s 26 victories are the third-most in school history, and the most since 1991-92 when Travis DeCuire was a player.
- The Grizzlies are led by a trio of all-conference performers – Ahmaad Rorie (first team), Michael Oguine (defensive player of the year/second team) and Jamar Akoh (third team). Montana is the only Big Sky team to have three players rank in the top 15 for scoring.
- Montana is ranked No. 14 in the most-recent College Insider Mid-Major Top 25.
- The Grizzlies won their first 13 conference games. The winning streak was one game shy of tying a school record.
- Montana set a school record with seven consecutive true road wins from Dec. 28 through Feb. 3.
- Montana finished its home slate undefeated (14-0). It marked the first time in 26 seasons, and the fifth time ever, that the Grizzlies have posted a perfect home record.
- Earlier this season, both Michael Oguine (32nd member) and Ahmaad Rorie (33rd) joined Montana’s 1,000-point scoring club.
- The Grizzlies are one of two NCAA Division I basketball teams to use the same starting lineup every game this season.
- Montana’s defense is forcing 15.45 turnovers per game, a figure with ranks 21st nationally.
- Fourth-year head coach Travis DeCuire is the fastest coach in Big Sky history to win 50 conference games (55-17). He has led Montana to three 20-plus-win seasons.
- Montana posted its first winning non-conference record since 2011-12, including a win at Pitt – its first over a Power-5 program since 2010 and first over an ACC team since 1966.
- The Grizzlies, who were coming off of a 16-16 season, were picked to finish third in the Big Sky Conference preseason coaches’ poll.
Montana celebrated a conference championship on March 1, the 11th regular-season title in school history and the second in four seasons under head coach Travis DeCuire. Just more than a week later, the Grizzlies were cutting down nets once again after winning the Big Sky Championship in Reno, Nev.
It marked the fifth time that the Grizzlies have won both the regular-season and tournament titles in the same season.
Regular-Season Championships (11): 1975, 1978, 1986, 1991, 1992, 1995, 2000, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2018
Tournament Championships (10): 1991, 1992, 1997, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2018
Three Grizzlies earned All-Big Sky Conference recognition, with Ahmaad Rorie being named to the first team, Michael Oguine earning second-team honors and Jamar Akoh garnering a spot on the third team.
Additionally, Oguine was named the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year. He is the fifth Grizzly to earn the honor in the 16 years of the award.
26 AND COUNTING
Montana’s 26-7 record is its highest win total since the 1991-92 Grizzlies won 27 contests.
The Grizzlies have won at least 20 games in three of Travis DeCuire‘s four seasons, and as a program have finished .500 or better in 10 consecutive seasons.
Montana is ranked No. 14 in the most-recent College Insider Mid-Major Top 25. The Grizzlies cracked the poll for the first time on Jan. 15 and have been ranked as high as No. 12.
The Mid-Major Top 25 ranks the top teams from the America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, Ivy, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Southwestern, Summit, Sun Belt, West Coast and Western Athletic conferences, in addition to independents. The poll, now in its 19th season, is voted on by 31 head coaches.
Montana is one of two NCAA Division I schools to use the same starting lineup every game this season, using guards Michael Oguine and Ahmaad Rorie, and forwards Jamar Akoh, Fabijan Krslovic and Bobby Moorehead. The other team to do so is Central Michigan.
- The Grizzlies are undefeated in their white uniforms (15-0).
- Montana is 19-0 when leading at halftime.
- Of Montana’s 33 games, 18 have been decided by double digits (17-2).
- The Grizzlies have scored 60 or more points in all but two contests. They are 15-0 when scoring 80 or more points.
- Montana is 18-1 when holding its opponent under 70 points.
- Montana is 20-0 when out-shooting its opponent, including 12-0 when shooting better than .500.
- The Grizzlies are 8-0 when their opponent shoots below .400, and 23-3 when they shoot under .500.
- Montana is 13-0 when shooting a higher percentage from three-point range than its opponent.
- Ironically, Montana is 8-1 when an opponent make eight or more three-pointers.
- The Grizzlies have out-rebounded their opponent in 24 of 33 contests (20-4).
- Montana has turned the ball over fewer times than its opponent 22 times (19-3).
Montana is the only school in Big Sky play to have three players rank in the top 15 for scoring, with juniors Ahmaad Rorie (16.2; ninth), Michael Oguine (15.9; 12th) and Jamar Akoh (15.0; 14th) doing so.
Rorie has scored in double figures 29 times – including 20-plus on 11 occasions. Oguine has been in double figures in all but four contests, while Akoh accomplished the feat in 19 of his final 23 regular-season games, including seven double-doubles.
Montana has forced at least nine turnovers in every game this season and ranks among the nation’s best, forcing 15.5 turnovers per game (21st in NCAA). The Grizzlies have turned the ball over more times than their opponent just eight times in 33 games and hold a +3.0 turnover margin (27th in NCAA).
On four occasions, Montana has forced 20 or more turnovers in a game, and in a win at Pitt (Nov. 13), the Grizzlies forced the Panthers into 19 turnovers, converting them into 30 points – an average of 1.58 points per turnover.
BIG SKY CHAMPIONSHIP FAST FACTS
- Montana played in its 39th Big Sky Championship in 41 seasons, tied with Weber State for the most appearances during that span (1978-present).
- Montana is 40-29 all-time in the tournament, the second-most wins of any Big Sky team.
- The Grizzlies have won the Championship 10 times (tied for first) and have advanced to the finals on 19 occasions (first).
- Since Montana’s first tournament title in 1991, Montana is 10-4 in the championship game. No team has won more titles during that span.
- Michael Oguine was named the tournament’s most outstanding player after scoring at least 19 points in all three games (21.0 average). Ahmaad Rorie (all-tournament team) scored 30 points in the Grizzlies’ win over North Dakota and averaged 21.3 points and 4.3 assists per game.
- Montana overcame second-half deficits in all three games. In the semifinal vs. Northern Colorado, the Grizzlies trailed by six with under a minute to play before pulling off an improbable victory. One night later, vs. Eastern Washington in the finals, Montana turned an 11-point halftime deficit into a 19-point lead by using a 30-4 run.
LEADING THE BIG SKY
It’s clear to see why Montana went 16-2 and won the Big Sky Conference regular-season title – The Grizzlies are among the best statistical teams on both sides of the ball. They finished the regular season ranked first for:
- Scoring defense (67.1)
- Scoring margin (+13.3)
- Field-goal percentage defense (.402)
- Steals (8.2)
- Turnover margin (+3.1)
Additionally, Montana ranked second in the conference for three-point field-goal defense (.330), rebounding (37.9), rebounding margin (+5.0) and offensive rebounds (11.1), and ranked third for scoring offense (80.4), field-goal percentage (.487), assists (13.7), and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.2).
BE LIKE MIKE
Junior guard Michael Oguine, the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year and Big Sky Championship Most Outstanding Player, does it all for the Griz, leading the team with 48 steals and ranking second for scoring (15.8 points per game), assists (64), rebounding (5.5 per game) and blocked shots (18).
- He was the only player in the Big Sky Conference to rank in the top 20 during league play for scoring (15.9 points per game; 12th), rebounding (5.7; 18th) and steals (1.4; fourth).
- Tied for seventh in the league with 2.0 offensive rebounds per game.
- Has scored in double figures 29 times this season, including each of Montana’s first 11 games.
- Has scored in double figures in seven consecutive games, and over the past four is averaging 21.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals.
- Earned Big Sky Conference Player of the Week recognition following his 39-point performance at Portland State (Jan. 13). The point total was the highest by a Montana player since Anthony Johnson scored 42 in 2010.
- Tallied 29 points in a signature win at Pitt (Nov. 13), including Montana’s final 10 points of regulation.
- Recorded two double-doubles (Feb. 8 vs. Portland State and March 3 vs. Idaho State). Against the Bengals, his 15 rebounds were the most by a Grizzly since 2016.
The offensive facilitator, Ahmaad Rorie leads the Griz for both scoring (17.4 points per game) and assists (123). He’s not only one of the top Griz players, but one of the top players in the Big Sky Conference, earning first-team all-league honors and all-tournament recognition.
- Was one of three players to rank in the top 10 in Big Sky play for scoring (16.2 points per game; ninth), assists (2.1; sixth) and minutes played (34.4; ninth).
- Ranked third in Big Sky action with a 2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
- Connected on 50 of 53 free-throw attempts during conference play (.943; second). During the season, he had streaks of 24 and 19 consecutive makes.
- Has scored in double figures 29 times, including at least 20 points on 13 occasions.
- Has led Montana in scoring 16 times.
- Has recorded at least four assists in eight of Montana’s last 11 contests.
- Scored at least 20 points in three consecutive games from Dec. 3-17 and again from Dec. 28-Jan. 4.
- Was named to the Legends Class Malibu Region all-tournament team after averaging 18.5 points, 6.0 assists, 3.5 steals and 37.5 minutes played in a pair of contests (Nov. 20-21).
AKOH TAKING OVER
The Grizzlies had high hopes for Jamar Akoh, a transfer from Cal State Fullerton who redshirted a year ago. In his first two games, however, he combined for just four points and two rebounds, being limited to 28 total minutes due to foul trouble. Akoh found his groove, and over the next 31 games, he has averaged 13.8 points and 7.0 rebounds down low while shooting 59.8 percent.
- Earned All-Big Sky Conference third-team recognition.
- Was one of two players to rank in the top 15 in Big Sky play for scoring (15.0; 14th), rebounding (7.0; eight) and field-goal percentage (.578; seventh).
- Posted seven double-doubles on the season, including five during league play (third-most).
- Scored in double figures in nine consecutive contests from Dec. 3 through Jan. 6.
- Earned Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honors after scoring a career-high 34 points vs. Northern Colorado (Jan. 6), which at the time was the highest point total by a Grizzly in eight seasons.
- Tallied three consecutive double-doubles from Feb. 3 through Feb. 10, averaging 19.0 points and 10.3 rebounds during that span.
Considered the glue and anchor of the team, Fabijan Krslovic, the team’s lone senior, has played in every game over the past four seasons. His 131 games played (115 starts) are a program record. Krslovic will also finish his playing career ranked in the top 10 in Montana history for career steals (126).
- Ranked second in Big Sky play with a .630 shooting percentage.
- Has recorded three double-doubles in his past five games, including a career-high-tying 13 rebounds vs. North Dakota (March 8) in the Big Sky quarterfinals.
- Totaled a season-high 21 points at Northern Colorado (Feb. 1). Since that game, Krslovic has averaged 11.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game on 63.5 percent shooting over the past 12 contests.
- Reached double figures for scoring once in his first 21 games of the season before doing it eight times in the past 12 contests and three in a row entering the NCAA tournament.
- Ranks second on the team for blocked shots (19), third for rebounding (5.1), fourth for assists (48) and fifth for steals (30).
- Averaged 2.3 assists per game over the final eight regular-season contests.
- Has recorded at least one steal in 11 of the past 13 games overall.
Bobby Moorehead struggled offensively for much of his sophomore season in 2016-17, averaging 3.9 points per game on .320 shooting. The junior has turned things around in 2017-18, averaging 7.5 points per game and ranking second on the team with 51 three-pointers made. He also ranks second on the team for minutes played (31.7) and steals (40), and third for rebounding (5.0).
- Led Montana with 27 steals during conference play (third in Big Sky).
- Recorded his first career double-double at Montana State (Jan. 20), scoring 10 points and collecting 12 rebounds while limiting preseason player of the year Tyler Hall to zero made field goals in the second half.
- Has totaled 10 double-figure scoring games, including back-to-back contests vs. Carroll (Nov. 26) and at Stanford (Nov. 29). Against the Cardinal, Moorehead scored 11 consecutive Griz points early in the second half.
- Scored a season-most 18 points at Northern Colorado (Feb. 1), shooting 4-of-5 from deep.
- Tallied at least one steal in Montana’s final 17 regular-season contests, including a career-high four vs. Montana State (Feb. 24).
- Ranked 20th in Big Sky play with 5.4 rebounds per game.
- Travis DeCuire has called Moorehead the team’s ‘toughest player’.
Sophomore Sayeed Pridgett is Montana’s first player off the bench, and he’s quietly and consistently putting up strong numbers for the Griz. In addition to 8.5 points per game, Pridgett ranks in the top five on the team for rebounding, assists, blocks and steals.
- Averaged 1.2 steals per game during Big Sky play (11th).
- Over the past 10 games, has averaged 10.7 points.
- Has scored in double figures 12 times this season, including four times in the past six contests.
- Enters the NCAA tournament with 11 multi-steal contests, including a stretch of four games in a row from Dec. 30 through Jan. 11
- Tallied his first career double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds (career high) vs. CSUN (Dec. 3).
- After being held scoreless in the first half vs. Montana State (Feb. 24), he scored 14 points in the second half on 7-of-9 shooting.
Freshman Timmy Falls averaged 9.3 minutes per game over Montana’s first 10 contests, scoring a total of 12 points on 5-of-19 shooting. He surpassed his point total from his first 10 games vs. UC Irvine alone, however, scoring 14 points vs. the Anteaters (Dec. 19). Over Montana’s next 23 games, Falls has averaged 5.7 points per game in 19.8 minutes of action.
- Entering the tournament, he ranks fourth on the team with 21 three-pointers, shooting at a team-best .415 clip.
- Ranks third on the team with 50 assists and has the best assist-per-minute average on the team (one assist every 9.1 minutes).
- During a stretch from Dec. 19 through Jan. 20, Falls had an assist in nine consecutive games – eight of which were multi-assist games.
- Dished out six dimes in a win at Northern Colorado (Feb. 1).
- Connected with freshman Karl Nicholas for a pair of dunks vs. North Dakota (Jan. 4) – one of which was a no-look, behind-the-head pass and the second being an alley oop from half court.
- Scored 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting vs. UC Irvine (Dec. 19). Again scored 14 points vs. Montana State (Feb. 24), all in the first half, including nine points in a span of 1:34 to help Montana turn a two-point lead into a 13-point halftime advantage.
FRESHMAN, Part II
Karl Nicholas has played in 30 games as a true freshman. His playing time has fluctuated throughout the season, but when he’s on, he’s an electric and entertaining player to watch.
- Scored a career-high 17 points vs. North Dakota (Jan. 4). In the win, he shot a perfect 8-for-8 from the floor, including four highlight-reel dunks. He also added three steals, three blocked shots and two assists on the career night.
- Scored 13 points and tallied a career-most seven rebounds in a win over Montana State (Feb. 24).
- After averaging just 7.7 minutes per game over the first three contests due to foul trouble, Nicholas had a breakout week at the Legends Classic Malibu Region (Nov. 20-21), averaging 23.0 minutes over two games and totaling 21 points on 10-of-15 shooting.
FIRST TO 50
In four seasons in the Big Sky Conference, Travis DeCuire has won at an historic rate. DeCuire holds a 55-17 mark in Big Sky action (.764), by far the best of any Montana coach in school history. However, with his win at North Dakota on Feb. 3, DeCuire became the fastest coach in Big Sky history to reach 50 conference wins (65 games). Weber State’s Randy Rahe accomplished the feat in his 67th game with the Wildcats (50-17).
DeCuire’s current conference winning percentage is the third-best in Big Sky history, and the best among coaches with at least 40 wins.
Oguine became the 32nd member of Montana’s 1,000-point club, scoring 23 points against Northern Arizona. Oguine enters the NCAA tournament in 17th place on the all-time list and is one of 14 players in UM history to reach the 1,000-point milestone during his third season.
Rorie became one of three players in Montana history (also Anthony Johnson and Martin Breunig) to reach the milestone in his second season. The transfer from Oregon is on pace to finish his career ranked in the top five.
HOME SWEET HOME
Montana closed its 2017-18 home slate with a 75-64 victory over Idaho State (March 3). The victory capped a perfect home season for the Grizzlies, improving their home mark to 14-0. It was the first time in 26 seasons and the fifth time ever that Montana has gone undefeated at home (also: 1991-92 (18-0), 1949-50 (15-0), 1983-84 (14-0) and 1974-75 (12-0)).
The win over the Bengals was also Montana’s 700th all-time inside Dahlberg Arena. The Grizzlies boast one of the nation’s best home-court advantages, going 700-245 (.741) in their home arena, including 118-25 (.825) over the past decade.
GETTING TO THE LINE
Montana ranks in the top 10 percent of all NCAA Division-I teams when it comes to getting to the free-throw line. The Grizzlies average 23.3 free-throw attempts per game (27th in NCAA) and make an average of 16.5 per game (30th).
Ahmaad Rorie (84.8 percent) ranks among the top 75 players nationally.
During Montana’s six-game winning streak, the Grizzlies are out-scoring their opponents in the paint by an average of 42.3 to 29.0. The Grizzlies have led the low-post battle in 13 consecutive games and 29 times overall this season (plus one tie).
GOOD ALL AROUND
Montana ranks in the top 100 nationally (out of 351 Division-I programs) for both scoring offense (67th) and scoring defense (80th). The Grizzlies are one of 17 teams to rank in the top 100 on both sides of the ball. The 78.1 points per game and 68.7 points-allowed average has led to a +9.4 scoring margin – ranked 36th nationally, including the best figure in the Big Sky Conference.
CRASHING THE GLASS
Montana has out-rebounded its opponent 23 times this season and holds a +4.8 rebounding margin (second in Big Sky, 46th nationally).
Nearly one-third of Montana’s rebounds have come from the offensive end (32.2 percent); that number was 28.6 percent a year ago. The Grizzlies are currently averaging 12.0 offensive rebounds per game this season (52nd in NCAA).
Montana has connected on nearly half of its shots this season (.471), a figure which ranks in the top 50 nationally. The Grizzlies have made more than half of their shots in a game 12 times, including a season-best 62 percent vs. North Dakota (Jan. 4). The percentage was the highest by a Big Sky team this season.