The Wolverines emphatically passed their biggest test to date this season.
Any words to describe what we just watched No. 7 Michigan (11-0, 6-0 B1G) do to No. 9 Wisconsin (10-3, 4-2 B1G) can be summed up by the words “holy hell.” Facing their biggest challenge of the season, Juwan Howard and his deep, dangerous Wolverines ran the Badgers out of Crisler Center by a score of 77-54 on Tuesday night.
The game was even more dominant than the score indicated. At one point in the second half, the Wolverines were on a 41-6 run and led Wisconsin by a score of 69-29. Everything was working and Michigan sent an emphatic message to the rest of the country in a nationally-televised Super Tuesday game on ESPN.
Point guard Mike Smith led the Wolverines in scoring on the night with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting and six assists, while Franz Wagner chipped in with 15 of his own. Isaiah Livers and Hunter Dickinson had 13 and 12 points, respectively.
This is normally where we would break to give you the three biggest takeaways of the game, but there is really only one. This was one of the most complete and impressive performances we have seen in recent Michigan basketball history and easily the most thorough of the Howard era. Everything was working on both ends of the floor. It’s actually stunning to think that at one point, Michigan only led 26-23.
KenPom had Wisconsin as its fifth-ranked team. This was not a team punching above its weight during conference play. The Badgers are consistently one of the best defensive teams in college basketball and one of the most efficient on the offensive end of the floor. This was a depantsing, an ass-whooping, a beatdown, etc. Whatever words you want to use to describe it, they are applicable.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about this game was not only the killer instinct that Michigan continues to show in putting teams away, but also that they did all of this on a night where Dickinson was mostly a non-factor. Wisconsin gave him some problems and he had a rough go of it, including taking a bit of a shot in the first half. Austin Davis returned to game action, so that helped to have an extra body in there. But if Michigan can do all of this still on a night where Dickinson doesn’t have it, this is one of the five best teams in college basketball.
This was about as much of a clinic as one could imagine. Everything went well and this was a banner performance for Michigan’s growing brand under Howard. All of the ingredients are there for something special and the energy on the bench is palpable even in a building that has to remain mostly empty during a pandemic. The target on their backs is only going to get bigger, but they are up for the challenge.
Next up for Michigan is a rematch with Minnesota on Saturday in the Twin Cities. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET and the game will be broadcast via ESPN2.