Well, here we are; 7-and-0 atop the Big Ten. After exploding through debatably the toughest week of their schedule, pitted against three consecutive top-10 teams, the Wolverines have emerged with sole possession of the conference lead, a first for the Big Ten this year. Michigan now eagerly anticipates a majestic return to the Top 10, where they have not resided since losing to Iowa State on November 17. The Wolverines would ultimately spend 7 total weeks excluded from the rankings, but are now poised to, much like the Jeffersons, move on up.
The Week That Was:
What a week it was. Characterized by three of the toughest matchups of the season, this past week challenged the Wolverines with a “sandwich of death”, rivaled only by Zingerman’s, facing 3rd ranked Wisconsin in Madison, followed by 10th ranked Iowa, only to be warmly welcomed into the Breslin Center by 3rd ranked MSU. In short, Michigan was forced to play the number 3 team in the country on the road twice in one week. And contrary to the astronomical odds of success, the Wolverines dismantled Wisconsin 77-70, powered through Iowa 75-67 and shocked Michigan State 80-75 en route to a perfect Big Ten record. Another week of perfection marks 9 straight wins for the Wolverines who will look to continue their conference dominance in the final stretch of their schedule.
One of my favorite movies of all time is Home Alone 2. For those of you who have been inhabiting the area underneath a rock, that is the Home Alone set in New York City, and it features a particularly applicable scene to the point I would like to make. Marv has just been shot with a staple gun in three specifically vulnerable places; he angrily kicks in the front door of the booby-trapped house and proudly exclaims, “Harry, I’ve reached the top!” He then clumsily tumbles through a giant hole, spanning multiple stories, only to crash loudly and painfully in a heap of dismay. Get the metaphor? The Wolverines have just knocked off three of the toughest opponents they will face all year, including the tournament! And now they have almost a full week of rest before facing Purdue at home, and then Indiana in Bloomington, a team who has already proven their ability to knock off top teams in Assembly Hall this season. Michigan has effectively “reached the top”; they need to make sure to check the floor in front of them, and not fall into a monstrous hole. Nik Stauskas is shooting the lights out and is poised to lead the Wolverines deep into the thicket of their Big Ten matchups.
Mitch McGary was seen on the bench this week for the first time since having back surgery. A timetable is still yet to be announced, as McGary reports lingering soreness. Luckily for the Wolverines, Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford have been able to more than adequately fill the void left by McGary’s absence.
-Michigan’s win against #10 Iowa came essentially without starting point guard Derrick Walton, Jr., who was sidelined for the majority of the game with flu-like symptoms.
-Despite playing without Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson and with an injured Keith Appling, Michigan State’s Gary Harris led all scorers with 27 points on 60% shooting in the loss.
-Throughout the MSU game, Mitch McGary had a whiteboard on which he would write various messages to both inspire and inform the team from his lofty point of view. As time wound down, McGary’s sign featured a simple phrase to which the Wolverines would effectively respond, “Win The Game”.