SAN ANTONIO (WOOD) — The Wolverines might know a thing or two about playing Villanova in San Antonio. In 2018, they played at the Alamodome against the Wildcats and it’s a game Eli Brooks remembers well.
“This is a big matchup for me, to get the win back in the same place we lost the national championship game,” he said.
It’s hard for Eli Brooks not to be selfish. He was a freshman in 2018 when Michigan’s Cinderella story ended in the National Championship game — they lost to Villanova in San Antonio.
“I’m not going to make it personal about myself, but it’s about moving onto the next round — it just so happens to be Villanova back in San Antonio,” said Brooks.
Four years later, Eli Brooks is back on the NCAA tournament stage against the school he almost attended. The Pennsylvania native had his college choices narrowed down to Villanova and Michigan but committed to the Wolverines under head coach John Beilein.
Villanova coach Jay Wright said he remembers when Brooks was considering the Wildcats.
“I did see him getting this good, this is what we thought he would be, that’s why we recruited him. He’s got such great character, brillant student, and a great competitor, so it’s a shame we gotta go against him, cause you root for a guy like that.”
And the rest is history. Through a coaching change and a pandemic, Eli Brooks stuck around to finish his fifth and final season with the Wolverines. He’ll tip-off tonight in his 14th NCAA tournament game. Head coach Juwan Howard said that experience is invaluable.
“The team that I inherited from Isaiah Livers and Xavier Simpson, and now you look at guys like Eli and Hunter [Dickinson] — it says a lot about these young men, and how they are giving to the program, but also giving to the leadership,” Howard said.
They call Eli Brooks the Professor — Juwan Howard says that is because of his high basketball IQ. Right now, he’s averaging double digits through two NCAA Tournament games. Thursday night’s game will determine if the Wolverines avenge the 2018 loss and advance to the Elite Eight.