Gonzaga looks like the team to beat this year, Baylor is ranked second and the third hottest team in college basketball is … Michigan?
Wolverine is now 11-0 after breaking No. 9 Wisconsin on Tuesday night 77-54.Wisconsin was a fierce opponent coming in, having lost just two of the previous games. They beat No. 12 Michigan State for Christmas with two numbers and won two straight in their top 10 match with No. 7 Michigan, but it was never closed Tuesday. Wolverines led by 40 at one point and ran 43-6 connecting the first and second half. Four players finished with double digits and for the first time in college basketball history a team has beaten three opponents in a row by at least 19 points.
“They’re locked in making things difficult for their opponents and it’s not easy,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said after the game. “It’s a buy-in to practice, watch movies and train when it feels. Uneasy “
In two short seasons, Howard was able to create his own Michigan program.
Before taking over as head coach for an old school, Howard was one of the NBA’s most beloved coaches and was building a good career as an assistant to the Miami Heat when Howard took over the former Michigan head coach. Coach John Beilein recently took over as NBA head coach in Cleveland after running for 12 seasons in Ann Arbor.
There are former NBA players who have participated in college programs in the past. But no one was as successful as Juwan Howard quickly.Avery Johnson was head coach at Alabama for four years and with little success, Penny Hardaway earned a nomination victory at Memphis. With James Wiseman and Precious Achiuwa, but with only one ranked team in three seasons.
Michigan made the announcement early in the 2019-20 season, starting 7-0 and beating Gonzaga to win the Battle 4 Atlantis title.Howard was able to do so with the team he inherited from Beilein, which was full A player he didn’t recruit, The Big Ten was the toughest meeting in college basketball last season, and Wolverines still managed to finish with a 19-12 record, Howard did. Wasted youth and brought high school talent like four-star actor Hunter Dickinson, Zeb Jackson, Terrence Williams and Howard’s son Jesse.
Wolverine lost just two seniors and sent back key players, including last year’s senior Isaiah Liverse, Franz Wagner and graduate students Austin Davis and Mike. Smith, Michigan is ranked 25th this season and spent five weeks and a 6-0 record until Howard’s team began to climb the ranks.
“Everyone came in, everyone bought the culture in two short years and I still think there was another step for us,” said Isaiah Liveres after winning Wisconsin. “It was similar to my second year starting 17-0, but I think this team is much deeper. ”
This is the Michigan team that lives and dies by their defense.
“To play on Coach Howard’s team, you have to play defensive games,” Livers said. ‘Why not deter every team from their offense?’ And it leads to a culture of harassment and block pictures, thieves in void, talk and fly around.We want to play like there are six in defense. ‘
Michigan has nine blocks against Wisconsin and has plenty of depth and height in the front yard, with a 7-foot-1 Dickinson freshman, a 6-foot 9-year-old, and a junior Brandon Johns Jr. 6 feet, 8 feet
Wagner, the younger brother of former Michigan player and current Washington Wizards striker Moee Wagner, is the most improved player on the Wolverines and is the most underrated player of all. Played best on the pitch on Tuesday night. Wagner arrived in his first year at just 205 pounds and worked with his brother in DC during an extended quarantine period and now plays at 226 pounds.
“He had just trained his butt in the spring,” Michigan strength and conditioning coach Jon Sanderson told Brendan Quinn from Athletic. “I mean, he pushed it. It’s not perfect He doesn’t actually have a weight room. But he spent that three months as much as possible and then returned to college, striving to be physically different. ”
Wagner scored a double-digit number in his past five games and finished with a double-double on Tuesday night, totaling 15 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and one block. Due to the extra weight, he is no longer pushed into the lane and is working on different ways to score.
Michigan doesn’t have one type of recruits and does five stars in the team. All the players on the roster bought early on how Howard wanted Michigan basketball to be. Other high school players want to be a part of it and learn from coaches like Howard and it helps a lot in the recruiting journey. Michigan has a No. 1 recruiting class next season, led by five-star winger Caleb Houstan.
“We work hard to identify high-profile players and pieces that will help our project,” Howard said. “We want to make sure we have quality young men from quality families who can get in. And represent Block ‘and this university with dignity and dignity. “
Shaka Smart spent six seasons at Texas finally gaining traction, and what Howard did in two years at Michigan was nothing short of outstanding. There are tons of moving pieces at the college level, from recruiting to game prep, hiring the right coaching staff, and creating a winning culture that everyone buys. Gonzaga could have been fanatical as the top team this season. But Michigan is lurking in the shadows and has all the tools to be there as one of the last four teams in Indianapolis.
More from Yahoo Sports: