Analysts Weigh In On Michigan Basketball's Dominant Start To Big Ten Play
Michigan Wolverines basketball has started off year two under head coach Juwan Howard extremely hot, going 10-0 overall and 5-0 to open up Big Ten play.
Several analysts around the Big Ten and the country are taking notice of just how good the Maize and Blue have been in the early going, dispatching of Penn State, Nebraska, Maryland, Northwestern and, most recently, Minnesota.
Early on in the season, any around the nation were taking a wait-and-see approach when it came to judging what kind of team the Wolverines were. Michigan did not play a high-major opponent in the non-conference and opened league play up against some of the teams perceived as clubs that won't make the NCAA Tournament come march.
But the last two games have been against ranked opponents in Northwestern (19 at the time) and Minnesota (16). Michigan was a 7.5-point favorite over the Gophers Wednesday night, but won with ease, by 25, 82-57, and has now defeated Big Ten opponents by an average margin of 14 points per victory. The team ranks No. 6 in Kenpom's offensive efficiency and No. 18 in defensive efficiency, and is surging by the game.
Big Ten Network analyst Robbie Hummel, a former Purdue star, had been lauding the Wolverines throughout the year but was hesitant to prop them up too much. He changed his tune a bit on the postgame show following the squad's dominant performance against Minnesota.
"Maybe Michigan is just really, really good," host Dave Revsine said, setting up Hummel.
"I think that’s the answer that we come to," said Hummel. "They absolutely demoralized Minnesota tonight, a great effort. They play so hard. When you watch this Michigan group compete, it’s honestly really impressive. So I’ve been really impressed with that.
"But defensively, they get after you. Offensively, think about this — [senior forward] Isaiah Livers might be their third or fourth option. He would star on so many college teams. But with that said, he embraces his role and he plays it really well. He had a nice game, but the story offensively was [freshman center] Hunter Dickinson."
Going up against Minnesota junior center Liam Robbins, the Big Ten's reigning Player of the Week, Dickinson scored a career-high 28 points on 12-of-15 shooting, while also adding eight rebounds and not committing a foul. Robbins posted five points on 2-of-9 from the field.
Michigan's smashing victory was enough to impress one of the most respected voices in the sport — analyst Andy Katz, who does work for BTN, Fox Sports and NCAA.com.
Katz released his Big Ten power rankings at the beginning of the week, and tabbed the Wolverines No. 1 in the conference. After the win over Minnesota, however, Katz looked at the Maize and Blue through a different lens, placing Michigan at No. 4 in his national power rankings and saying Michigan is a "tier one" team in all of college basketball, along with (in order) Gonzaga, Baylor and Villanova.
"I have a new member — Michigan … undefeated, atop the Big Ten," said Katz. "I know, the Wolverines still have not played the other big three in the Big Ten in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin, but Michigan right now is playing the best basketball in the Big Ten at this moment."
Michigan hasn't played any of the three Big Ten teams Katz mentioned, but they haven't played Michigan, either. In fact, the Wolverines actually have played the 74th-toughest schedule nationally to this point, which is lower than Illinois (9) but higher than Wisconsin (78) and Iowa (79).
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