Michigan Wolverines basketball improved to 11-0 overall and 6-0 in league play behind a dominant 77-54 win over the ninth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers on Tuesday night at Crisler Center.
The Wolverines used a 43-6 run that stretched from late in the first half until mid-way through the second half to run the Badgers right out of the gym. With the win, Michigan became the first team in college basketball history to beat three-straight ranked opponents by 19 or more points. The Maize and Blue dismantled No. 19 Northwestern, No. 16 Minnesota and now Wisconsin all in the last week and a half.
Michigan sits at No. 7 in the AP Poll, and with a win Saturday would likely vault up even higher in the rankings. It’s early, head coach Juwan Howard and his players acknowledged following the win … but they are have their eyes on a large prize, the national title, meaning they aren’t becoming complacent despite all of the early-season success.
“We’re not here to break any records, our goal is to be the last team standing on Monday night in April,” Howard said.
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One of Howard’s standout players, freshman center Hunter Dickinson, was also thinking about the postseason after the game.
I mean, I think our ceiling would probably be the best team in the country,” he told Andy Katz on an interview with MarchMadness.com. “I think I’ve said that from the beginning when we weren’t even ranked, coming into the summer. I just saw the talent in the open gyms that we had in June in July, so much talent.
“We’re such a deep team that if players don’t have good games one night, we have players on the bench that can step up and contribute, and I think the energy that we bring from the bench really is inspiring everybody. I think, without a doubt, that we can make a deep, deep run in the tournament.”
The rest of the country is officially on notice after Tuesday night’s victory. Michigan won with suffocating defense and extremely efficient offense.
“I think we all just bought into Coach Howard’s game plan,” Dickinson said of the win. “We went through it the whole week, through their plays and stuff like that. Coach Howard and the rest of the coaching staff gave us a great game plan, and I think everybody did a great job of following it.”
The Wolverines’ ascending defense, after some minor struggles at times in the non-conference, is one of the reasons why they are a Big Ten contender and fighting for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Lead defensive assistant Saddi Washington has seen the club rise all the way up to No. 11 nationally in adjusted efficiency, per Kenpom, after sitting at No. 28 before the Minnesota game last week.
“Our defense really turns into our offense,” Dickinson said. “We have super good length out there with Franz and Isaiah, two guys who are really two-way players. But I think that really disrupts teams and forces them to get out of their comfort zones on offense, which leads to good offensive possessions for us.”
If Michigan does indeed make a deep run in March and into April, Dickinson will be a big reason why. He’s been one of the best big men and players in the country, while averaging 17.5 points and 7.9 boards per game and shooting a ridiculous 70.9 percent from the field.
He said his expectations coming into his first college season were to make an impact on winning, and he’s done that and more in his first several months on campus.
“My expectations were to try and improve every day and try to get better under Coach Howard and the rest of this coaching staff, and just try to make an impact on winning for our team, try to contribute as much as I can for this team,” Dickinson explained.
“I think I’ve done pretty well. It’s pretty easy when you’ve got guys like [senior guard] Eli [Brooks], [fifth-year senior guard] Mike [Smith], [sophomore wing] Franz [Wagner] and [senior forward] Isaiah [Livers] finding me in open spots. We got good sets, Coach Howard puts me in good spots to where I can use my skills to score and help the offense.”
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