The Wolverine

January 2013

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 9 of 83

Wolverine WATCH   john borton J U-M Is Living Up To The Early Hype ohn Beilein's team steps on the court, and you expect them to win. Period. Not hope, not dream, not run through a mental checklist of conditions, and not scan weather reports in hopes that an opponent can't make the trip in, and forfeits. They stride out as one of the youngest teams, experience-wise, in the nation, and Michigan fans wait to see not if, but how, they're going to keep the zero in their record's right-hand column. When was the last time you experienced that sensation about a Michigan basketball team? Certainly it wasn't last year, Big Ten championship notwithstanding. That team clawed its way to a banner behind an incredibly talented freshman point guard, along with guts, toughness, savvy and clutch play from seniors and others who harbored title dreams that many considered a bigger myth than flying reindeer. It wasn't any of Beilein's previous teams, or any of Tommy Amaker's, either. Beilein scrambled to assemble talent following a decade away from the NCAA Tournament. Amaker labored under the shadow of NCAA sanctions brought on by others. Both at one point found themselves selling recruits on facilities that were clearly from the clearance rack. It wasn't any of the Michigan teams from the mid-to-late 1990s, despite a wealth of talent on those squads. They all lost at least eight games, with patches of league play rough enough that U-M's skein of zero Big Ten titles since 1986 remained unabated. No, you have to dial it all the way back to 1992-93 — a year Maize Rage denizens now understand only through video highlights and documentaries — to recall a Michigan crew expected to win every time out. And that group, you might recall, featured three eventual NBA AllStars. Now, let's not get carried away. This crew has yet to take its first forearm in the chops in East Lansing. It has not, as an entire unit, experienced 10  the wolverine    January 2013 Head coach John Beilein's squad has thus far met the lofty preseason expectations of the pollsters and prognosticators. photo by per kjeldsen the cacophonous cauldron of Michigan hatred in Columbus, or more than 17,000 crimson-and-cream clad self-appointed officials in Bloomington. It hasn't closed out a game when competitive ferocity surges out of every pore from 100-year rivals, or when whistles are swallowed inside Big Ten basketball palaces shaking with emotion. It hasn't been as well scouted in a single game in its 11-0 start as it will be in every game once the league season tips off. Losses will come. That's almost a given. Just ask Indiana, the No. 1 team in the land, until the Hoosiers weren't the No. 1 team in their own state for an afternoon. Just ask every BCS conference school that isn't named Michigan, Cincinnati, Illinois, Duke, Syracuse and Arizona. Those are the teams that haven't chewed on the saturated sweat sock of defeat so far this year. It's coming. But with Michigan, it won't come easily, and it won't come often. The Wolverines are too well coached, too well prepared, too talented and deep to take any sort of an extended dive. They feature arguably the best point guard in the country in sophomore Trey Burke, averaging 18 points and seven assists a game. They've got a crafty backup in freshman Spike Albrecht, someone steady enough to post 12 assists against only two turnovers so far. They've got a scorer in junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (15.7 average), who has transformed Michigan's transition game with the way he's crashing the glass. They have budding stars in freshman starters Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas, the former a smooth, lengthy operator, both inside and outside, the latter a sniper with something to prove. Plus, they've got enough big-man weaponry that every bump in the road doesn't represent a ditch pulling the Wolverines in. They lose 6-10, 250-pound redshirt sophomore Jon Horford for two to three weeks with a dislocated kneecap, or 6-7, 245-pound Max Bielfeldt for a few games with an injured ankle, they simply rely on 6-8, 250-pound redshirt junior starter Jordan Morgan and 6-10, 250-pound freshman Mitch McGary for a stretch. In other words, Beilein's cupboard remains well stocked for the holidays and beyond. "It's pretty crazy," said Stauskas, regarding Michigan's early hype and subsequent on-court affirmation. "Obviously, we have Trey coming back this year and that helped us out a lot with the rankings and recognition, because of the player he is. But it's unbelievable that we are where we are right now. "We can go really far, as long as we continue to work hard and stay together. The sky is the limit for us." The Big Ten has a way of bringing teams back down to earth — especially in its nation's-best 2012-13 version. The NCAA Tournament proves an annual hubris humbler, busted brackets floating to the hardwood like peanut shells on a roadhouse floor. So nothing's guaranteed. But a whole lot is expected. That in itself has been a long time coming. ❑ Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB_Wolverine.

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - January 2013