If I told you a Michigan team led by a former player who returned back home after spending time coaching in the pros was a national title contender and consistently good year after year, the majority people would actually believe Jim Harbaugh has shit figured out in Ann Arbor. Nope. It's the basketball team .... still. Juwan Howard, who is not only a better player in his respective sport but also apparently a better coach, has Michigan rolling. Another ho-hum 10-0 start.
Sure, you can sit here and poke holes in the start. You can say they don't have a great win. Its best win is home to Minnesota, who is a shit team on the road. Maybe a road win over Maryland, but the Terps are probably the worst team in the Big 10 not named Nebraska. They don't have an elite nonconference win, but this year? Who gives a shit this year. They look the part.
What's even more impressive about that is this is Howard's second year and he had to deal with the loss of Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske after year 1. You typically don't just come in and replace two senior starters and leaders like that. The whole leader thing can be a bit overplayed in college basketball because old people love talking about seniors that stay in college hoops, but what they provided in the PnR and Simpson's ability to break down a defense was huge. No big deal, just bring in Hunter Dickinson a 4-star that somehow got right out of Maryland's backyard. 7'1" freshman averaging just 18 and 8. Pretty good!
He's turned into the star of this team just know their role. (Quick break because when I say know their role, you can't finish it)
You have the senior guard in Eli Brooks - shout out York, PA. All we do is produce talent like Bruce Arians, Chris Doleman, the band Live, John Kuhn, Eli Brooks and a Barstool blogger. Is he going to go drop 20? Nope. But he knows he doesn't have to. He's playing over 77% of possible minutes this season. He doesn't foul. He's shooting 36% from three. He's also basketball tough.
They have Isaiah Livers, again an experienced player that has star potential. As much as Dickinson is dominating headlines, Livers is the key to this team. He's the perfect small ball 4. 38.5% from three. Ranks in the top-200 nationally in effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage. Protects the rim a little bit. He's the backbone to this team. Surrounding these guys like Franz Wagner, Mike Smith, Chaundee Brown and even like a Brandon Johns is why this team is so good.
They are a borderline title contender for me. I talked about it yesterday in the picks blog. We know Gonzaga and Baylor are the clear tier 1 teams in the country. But after that? I said it before, it's teams like Villanova, Texas, Illinois and Michigan for me. Tier 3 is a bit deeper with teams like Tennessee, Alabama, WVU, Kansas, Creighton, Houston, Iowa and Wisconsin.
They just continue to run laps around the football program. It's not even close, Michigan is a basketball school. They can actually beat Ohio State. They can actually make Final Fours and compete for national titles. This year is no different. They can really set themselves apart in a month. We'll find out just how good this team is when they have a stretch of home to Michigan State, Illinois, at Wisconsin, home to Rutgers and then at Ohio State. Crazy how smooth the transition from Beilein to Howard has been.