After this past weekend in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, Michigan might have proven to the country that they the best team in college hoops. Coming into the season, the Michigan basketball program was thought to be going through a rebuilding year, but that claim was quickly shot down with the flaming hot 7-0 start for the Wolverines.
Following the departure of head coach John Beilein, and star players Ignas Brazdeikis, Jordan Poole, and Charles Matthews – this season looked to be a restructuring of Michigan basketball. To replace John Beilein, a familiar face was brought in, as former “Fab Five” superstar Juwan Howard was named the new head coach.
With a team consisting of just two new recruits, and some of the known “role players”, the team didn’t have high expectations. They were unranked in the initial AP poll and were picked fifth in the preseason B1G rankings.
Though, the core of “role players” including; Isaiah Livers, Jon Teske, Eli Brooks, and Zavier Simpson are leading the undefeated Wolverines to success, despite the early doubt. They’ve clearly retained what was learned from Beilein’s fantastic coaching, and have flawlessly translated it to Howard’s new system. Coach Beilein still deserves a ton of credit for Michigan’s current success as well, as he developed these “veteran” leaders.
Let us return to this past Thanksgiving weekend, where the Wolverines put the rest of the country on notice with two lopsided wins over top ten programs. After a nine-point win versus North Carolina, we saw that this team could compete with the blue bloods. U-M shot 50% from the field and 43% from three. If people thought this was a fluke and just a lucky upset, they were proven wrong because the next day in the final of the Battle 4 Atlantis; the Wolverines played Gonzaga and annihilated them. Michigan built on the hot shooting from the previous game and shot 54% from the field and 53% from three. A 22 point win in college basketball is impressive, but a 22 point win over the eighth-ranked team is ridiculously impressive; especially for an unranked team
After those two big wins, Michigan jumped the highest the AP poll has ever seen going from unranked, to the number four overall team in the country. While they did receive some help though with the losses from Duke, Michigan State, Oregon, and Seton Hall; there’s no question that Michigan deserves the No. 4 honor.
Looking into the future for this team, they have a tough matchup in the ACC-B1G challenge vs. the new No. 1 Louisville and No. 13 Oregon; but, if Michigan plays the way they played in the Bahamas, no team is stopping them this year. This team has overcome the preseason hate and is currently the hottest team in the country, and I don’t see that ending soon.
(Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated)