Michigan continued to prove why they are the hottest team in the country breaking the program record of most consecutive wins to start a season by trouncing Northwestern Sunday night 80-60.
The Wolverines improved to 17-0 for the first time in school history and when the AP poll came out the next afternoon, Michigan was still sitting at the #2 slot. Most will tell you, especially the casual fan, that Duke is a world beater and they will run through everyone come March. Duke (14-1) lost to Gonzaga at the end of November but has held the number one seed since around the start of the new year.
Michigan only received 9 first place votes compared to Dukes 36, which makes a little sense given how much hype Duke has received because of having the three top recruits in the nation as freshman this season. What doesn’t make a lot of sense to me is #3 Tennessee received 13 first place votes boasting the same record as Duke. The Volunteers best win is against then #1 Gonzaga and they have beaten most of their opponents by double digits but other than the Zags the only other ranked opponent Tennessee faced was a loss to then #2 Kansas.
Michigan has defeated four ranked opponents so far this year Villanova, North Carolina, Purdue and Indiana. Three of them were complete routs with the Hoosier game being a little closer but never not in hand for John Beilein’s crew. They also have only won by single digits two times, the rest have been at least ten or more point victories.
Part of me expects Michigan to be under estimated and viewed as overrated, they usually have stood in the shadow of Michigan State. But recent years have been different, especially last season when the Wolverines went on a magical run ending with a disappointing lost to Villanova in the National Championship game. Michigan has returned all but three players from that team and has added some others and has had some others step up.
Sunday night vs Northwestern was a prime example of how deep and dangerous these Wolverines really are. The first time the Wildcats and Wolverines went at it in Evanston, Northwestern chose to let junior point guard Zaiver Simpson shoot at will and left him pretty much wide open the entire game. Simpson went 0-5 from beyond the arc that game and Michigan squeaked out a road win 62-60.
Sunday night vs the Wildcats Simpson was 5-10 from the three point line and scored 24 points all together. Simpson wasn’t the only player who had a coming out party, Jon Teske had 17 points and 11 rebounds. “Big Nasty” as his teammates call him was also fantastic from beyond the line shooting 3 for 5 and opened the first few minutes of the game hitting back to back deep two point shots.
Michigan’s leading scorer the last few weeks, Jordan Poole, had three points at the half and it did not matter. Michigan lead by 22 at the half and ended the game with 4 out of 5 starters in double digits and Poole wasn’t one of them. This should be extremely encouraging for the Michigan faithful, any guy can go off on any night and it’s not just their on the court play that should get you riled up.
The Michigan players speak of a brotherhood and you can see the excitement they have for one another when somebody makes a play. They do not have a “got to get mine” mentality and it shows night in and night out especially Sunday vs Northwestern.
“Our highlight is getting the win” said coach Beilien after Sunday’s win.
Michigan will go on the road to face Wisconsin Saturday at noon, a game in which some are predicting Michigan to lose, just like the voters in the AP and coaches poll. The Wolverines will have to keep winning games to prove what I think is obvious, that they are the best team in the country.