The Wolverine

February 2019

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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8 THE WOLVERINE FEBRUARY 2019 J ohn Beilein's basketball crew raced off to a 17-0 start, the best beginning in the cen- tury-long history of the Wolver- ines on the hardcourt. That and $10.45 will buy you a Where's Bo sandwich (with egg) at Maize And Blue Deli, and the Wolverines know it. While the basketball world salutes their collective prow- ess, they've reacted with all the over-heated elation of a man stripping off old wallpaper. Sure, it's a big deal that they're playing well. But bas- ketball records in January are like snowflakes come July. They quickly melt away. So don't start talking great- ness to the Crisler Center crew … yet, anyway. "The championship is not won until April," redshirt junior guard Charles Matthews noted. "We're just trying to be cham- pions at the end of the season. We understand this record means abso- lutely nothing right now, but we're still happy we do have it." "It's definitely an achievement, but like Coach B says, it's not the highlight of our season," junior cen- ter Jon Teske observed. Beilein himself? He's all about what's next. Looking for a grand statement from him about the begin- ning of a season is like seeking a de- tailed game plan from Jim Harbaugh on a football Monday. "We're such a day-to-day team, and I'm a day-to-day coach," Beilein said with a shrug. These are good days. In Michi- gan's first half-dozen games in Big Ten play this year, the Wolverines trailed for all of three minutes and seven seconds, combined. There are abundant pitfalls to come, like an ill-fated trip to Wis- consin's Kohl Center revealed. But Beilein's crew appears exceptionally well prepared to handle most of them. Northwestern head coach Chris Collins has been watching U-M teams for a long time, first at Duke, now the past six seasons in Evan- ston. While the record Michigan secured against his team ultimately doesn't matter, Collins' assessment could. "They don't really have a lot of holes," he said. "They're terrific defensively. They're connected de- fensively. "It's probably their most well- rounded team. It's a really good mix of guys that know their roles. They have a terrific leader in [junior point guard Zavier] Simpson and a great coach in Coach Beilein. They're one of the teams that should have a chance to play with anybody as you go forward, in the Big Ten and beyond, when you get to the NCAA Tournament." Collins' crew tried to beat Michi- gan at Crisler by laying off Simpson and Teske, as perhaps the weak scor- ing links in a lineup featuring three players who could go for 30 on any given night — Matthews, sopho- more guard Jordan Poole and fresh- man forward Ignas Brazdeikis. So much for that strategy. Simpson and Teske combined to shoot 8 of 15 from three-point range, teaming up for 41 points in an 80-60 blowout. You pick your poison, Collins asserted. The Wildcats got Ro- meoed. "When they're shooting like that, and you add Charles and Jordan Poole and Iggy to that group, and a couple of those guys off the bench, certainly they're going to be very difficult to beat, no matter who's play- ing them," he said. "It's kind of why they're 17-0. Seventeen teams have tried, and 17 have failed. Only two teams have come within 10 points of them. When you play 17 games, and only two of them are single- figure games, you've got a good thing going. "They don't have many flaws, they're very well coached on both ends. They make it hard. They put pressure on you, both offensively and defensively. I'm just a big fan of their team. I feel like they can compete with any- body I've seen or played against this year, in the country." As for the well-roundedness, Mat- thews wasn't inclined to argue. "There's some validity to that," he said. "As we've shown, you never know who can be the leading scorer on this team. You never know who can be the leading rebounder, the leading assist man. We just play to win. "It can be anybody at any given time. We just always come well pre- pared, and that's the key to us win- ning." The key to Michigan continuing to win, Beilein noted, involves main- taining the unselfishness. A new hero every night is great in theory, but not in Human Nature 101. "That's what we have to manage all the time," he said. "It's not them. It's the normal expectations." Everybody wants a highlight reel, Beilein acknowledged. He's urging his team to let the season become one. "Find a way to win," Beilein said. "That's the highlight." ❏ Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB _ Wolverine. WOLVERINE WATCH   JOHN BORTON Wolverines Take Record Start In Stride The 17-0 start by John Beilein's squad is the best in the cen- tury-long history of the men's basketball program, but the Wolverines are more focused on what they can accomplish in March and April. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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