The state of Michigan-Ohio is exactly what college basketball needs.
Arguably the most anticipated game of the regular season has dwarfed the hype and delivered a more compelling game and interest in school rivalry than football has largely been able to do in the past decade. A bonus: this was the first top 5 inter-program matchup in their history. third place Michigan From a résumé standpoint, his most successful road win of the season with a 92-87 win over OSU # 4.
It was an equally fun and provocative game between two ranked teams that we’ve seen over the past three months.
This has been a rocky season – as predicted – in college basketball. 40-80 games are postponed or canceled every week. High-end teams like it Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan, Villanova and Florida State took week-long breaks. You never want your best teams to be out of sight (out of their minds), but it has been like that for the past three months. Sure, it was a joy to have college basketball in the first place, despite the problems associated with hosting a season amid a pandemic, but it’s fair to say the sport has been lacking some juice since it lost it of the 2020 NCAA tournament is staggered.
All of that seemed to go away in two hours on Sunday when a national audience voted to prepare for March. A top 5 slant gilded by two of the biggest college sports brands made for a high-octane result that can’t be averted. Chef’s kiss delicious.
This was the third time in the last three months that college basketball had been given a game between two top five teams. On December 2nd, Baylor # 2 rolled past # 5 Illinois 82-69. Seventeen days later, the senior Gonzaga dropped number 3 Iowa Linger, but it was a 99-88 finish in favor of the still undefeated Bulldogs.
The state of Michigan-Ohio brought with it what those two games didn’t – an element on the home court – in addition to the fact that both teams were seeded number 1.
A lack of fans didn’t suck the drama or the viewing experience out of this one. It was a title-level competition. Michigan finished the game with a fiery 1.37 points per possession. (OSU ended just behind at 1:30 a.m.) The Michigan Center Hunter Dickinson was no secret to Diehards of the Sport. It was consistently rated in the top 5 of Frosh Watch from CBS Sports. For a wider audience, however, today was an extended introduction. Even though Ohio State had a few missed second chances and two bad sales on the track, in the end one team had the 7-footer (who looks like the guy from “Empire Records”) and the other team that didn’t have it seemed to be the difference. Dickinson had 22 points, nine rebounds, two blocks, and at least four easy buckets against an OSU team that doesn’t have a player greater than 6-8.
“The difficult thing with them is that they shoot well in different places,” OSU coach Chris Holtmann told CBS Sports. “And Dickinson is a burden.”
The teams made up 22 3-point shots and shot 49% from a distance, in addition to Michigan 57% of their 2-point shots and Ohio State 55% of their attempts within the 3-point line. Insult, insult, insult – and not because of bad defense.
On the way we got a wonderful potential Final Four preview. Both teams are obviously good enough to run until last weekend. What Michigan did after a 23-day hiatus is almost mind-boggling. A week ago, the Wolverines were ahead Wisconsin 40-20 in the second half, shaking off any rust flakes and winning on the road. Thursday brought an artisanal, undoubted home by Rutgers. Sunday was the best so far. UM opened with an absurd 10-of-13 shooting performance in the first half from beyond the bow. It ended 11 out of 23 and featured flashbacks from some of John Beilein’s best teams.
Could this group be better than his 2013 or 2018 Final Four teams? At this point, that’s on the table. Holtmann told me you can see some of them HowardThe NBA’s influence on the way Michigan runs some of its offensive sets makes this team round.
“I think what is so impressive about them is that you can just say that they have really embraced his personality,” said Holtmann. “Competitive, smart, persistent. I’ve brought this team to the same level as the really good Beilein teams and it’s impressive to see him doing it [in his second season]. “
In two seasons, Howard did what Beilein only did once in eleven years: victory in the state of Ohio. This was the Wolverines’ first win in Columbus in seven years and only the second since 2005. Michigan are now 11-1 in the Big Ten, their best start in the league game since 1976/77. Juwan Howard was 4 years old at the time.
The Big Ten will obviously get at least one of their teams to reach number 1. This is the first time since 2015 (Wisconsin) that the league has found the top line on Selection Sunday. Michigan isn’t banned to the No. 1 yet (games against No. 11 Iowa, No. 5 Illinois, and the Big Ten tournament are all waiting for you), but it’s as close as possible to banning status on February 21st .
“They are a complete team,” said Holtmann. “That’s why everyone is so high on her, and rightly so.”
It’s one of the best stories in college tires. There was a time recently when a job opened in Michigan. There was a man behind the scenes pushing to be hired. He was a well-known man, an alumnus, and someone who achieved success as a professional in both his playing and coaching careers. Could returning to college work? It didn’t matter to the fans at first, as they were overjoyed at the prospect of having a loved face back on campus and someone who had serious success at the highest level, decided to train Michigan again. Better still: beat Ohio State.
No, not Jim Harbaugh. Another YH: Juwan Howard. The University of Michigan men’s basketball team is dominant, relevant, and rolls in a way that the football program can only currently imagine.