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Did Michigan Rediscover Its Offense?

The Big Ten Tournament can be a momentum creator. And, like all tournaments, it's mostly about matchups. Iowa's worst defensive team in the Big Ten. Even still, Michigan has had some pretty choppy days against some of the bottom defenders in the league.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – MARCH 15: The Michigan Wolverines bench reacts in the first half against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at the United Center on March 15, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Dylan Buell / Getty Images) (Photo: Dylan Buell, Getty Images)

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There were no issues Friday night in Chicago, as Michigan (27-5) was firing on all cylinders in a way it didn't in some time. For Michigan, this is what the Big Ten tournament has to be about. Finding its offense again.

It might be too early to declare this a trend, as Iowa is a pretty defensive team, but Michigan moved the ball very well Friday night and, most of the time, knocked down open looks when they were there. The Wolverines had 20 assists on their first 22 made baskets. That's pretty wild.

There was plenty of balance, too. Michigan has been pleading with backup point guard Eli Brooks to play with more confidence offensively. He did it Friday and gave Michigan some big minutes as a result, knocking in a pair of first-half 3-pointers.

So the question: Was this more about Michigan's offense or Iowa's defense? Maybe a little bit of both. But credit where it's due: On Friday night, the Wolverines looked much more like the John Beilein tournament teams we've grown used to watching in recent years.

And maybe a little momentum was created.

Can Eli Brooks do this again?

Soon after inserting him into the game, Beilein watched Brooks work himself open and fire off a great look from 3-point range. The shot looked good, but the ball barely rimmed out. Beilein turned back to his bench, visibly frustrated, almost pleading for something to happen to his backup point guard.

Eventually, it did. Brooks gave Michigan his best minutes off the bench in some time Friday. He hit a pair or open 3-pointers in the first half. He had three assists. He defended well. He kept the ball moving and forced Iowa to guard him.

Iowa's Luke Garza dribbles the ball while being guarded by Michigan's Eli Brooks in the first half during the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament at the United Center on Friday, March 15, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images)

It may not look significant, but if Michigan can get 10 to 15 really good minutes out of Brooks in March, everything gets that much easier for the Wolverines.

Michigan found some of that a year ago with Jaaron Simmons, who had some big moments in March. If you can make the most of his minutes and at least be enough of a threat to keep teams somewhat honestly, that would be huge for a Michigan team with a limited bench.

What about Minnesota?

Michigan won't have to go through No. 2 seed Purdue to get back to its third straight Big Ten title game. No. 7 Minnesota knocked off the Boilermakers earlier Friday night, setting up a third matchup between the Wolverines and Gophers in Saturday's second semifinal game.

Michigan won the previous meetings, with its defense leading the way both times. The Wolverines think Minnesota to 59 and 60 points, respectively, this season and flustered leading scores Amir Coffey both times.

Charles Matthews was back in the starting lineup Friday and looked healthy enough. If he can stop Coffey again, that puts even more pressure on Minnesota standout Jordan Murphy – who dropped in 27 points against Purdue.

Beating a team three times is never easy, and Minnesota might be playing its best basketball of the season.

But if Michigan can get another offensive performance like it did Friday night, the Wolverines can certainly make it 3-for-3 against the Gophers.

A win Saturday, by the way, seems like it might be enough to lock the Wolverines in as a no. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Contact Nick Baumgardner at nbaumgardn@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickbaumgardner . Read more on the Michigan Wolverines and sign up for our Wolverines newsletter.