The Wolverine

February 2019

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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FEBRUARY 2019 THE WOLVERINE 17   INSIDE MICHIGAN ATHLETICS Jon Teske Is The Early MVP By Brandon Brown There's a lot of credit go around when it comes to Michi- gan's record-breaking start to the 2018-19 basketball season. "Defensive coordinator" Luke Yaklich has the team playing as one cohesive unit on that end of the floor. Redshirt junior Charles Matthews is one of the best two-way players in the conference. Freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis can seem- ingly go get a bucket whenever he wants and has been better than expected on defense. Junior point guard Zavier Simpson really makes things go on both ends of the floor. And, of course, head coach John Beilein deserves a little credit as well. But one player stands out above all others — literally and figuratively. Junior center Jon Teske is the cornerstone of Beilein's squad this year. The 7-1, 260-pounder has grown by leaps and bounds since last year and is now U-M's most irreplaceable piece. The big man from Ohio is giving Michigan 27.2 minutes per game and is very noticeably absent when he's off the floor. Simp- son is right up there for importance, but the drop-off from Teske to backup big man Austin Davis is far larger than the drop-off from Simp- son to his backup, Eli Brooks. Teske isn't neces- sarily stuffing the stat sheet at 8.7 points and 6.7 re- bounds per game, but his presence on defense and ability to spread the floor on offense simply cannot be dupli- cated by anyone else on the roster, and his production contin- ues to increase. The big man is playing with confi- dence, shooting the three without hesi- tation and leading the Big Ten in blocks (2.3 per game) as of Jan. 21. He is really doing it all from the "five" spot, and is a huge reason why U-M started the way it did and will con- tinue to be instru- mental heading into tourney time. Zavier Simpson Is The Straw That Stirs The Drink By Chris Balas The beauty of this 2018-19 Michigan basketball team is that it's not just one guy carrying the load on each end of the floor. There aren't many surefire NBA standouts on this roster like you'll find at Duke or other basketball factories; no, this is a true team, built and performing exactly the way head coach John Beilein would envision his best squads. One night, freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis looks like the go-to guy, like he did when he put up 24 points in a November blowout of North Carolina or 23 at Northwestern. Redshirt junior Charles Matthews is an absolutely elite de- fender almost every night, and he'll have games like his 18 points in a win over Indiana in which he's the best all-around player on the floor. Sophomore Jordan Poole is capable of scoring 20-plus points on any given night, and as Beilein noted is now a marked man given how well he shoots the ball from long range. But when it comes to MVPs, junior cen- ter Jon Teske and junior point guard Zavier Simpson are the two guys whose losses U-M might least be able to over- come. Teske is unbe- lievable defensively, not just in his ability to alter shots but also because players can't see over him to pass when he de- fends a ball screen. He's also added a three-point ball to his arsenal, which has opened the floor for the Wolverines' slashers. Simpson, though, is the heart and soul of this squad. His de- fense is elite, and he's simply a winner. He finds ways to score, and now he's starting to knock down three- pointers. Sophomore Eli Brooks is improv- ing and freshman Da- vid DeJulius will be good down the road, but without Simpson in the lineup, this team would take a major hit. POINT ❙ COUNTERPOINT WHO HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST KEY TO MICHIGAN BASKETBALL'S RECORD START? Neither junior center Jon Teske (left) or classmate point guard Zavier Simpson (right) lead U-M in scoring, but both have been vital to the team's success so far this year. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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