When the Bad Boy Pistons were on a roll ripping opponents apart with precision and good decisions team captain Isiah Thomas often said the team played like a yo-yo on a string.
In other words everybody pulled in the same direction and the slight of hand was beauty to behold. There is no better place to see everyone pulling in the same direction as the Michigan Wolverines basketball team.
“A lot of guys can be selfish, looking at their stats, but we don’t have that here with Michigan basketball,” Isaiah Livers told the media recently. “When we all win, we all shine. Everyone has bought in to the culture. We don’t have one selfish player on our team. When everyone buys into that, you are going to raise banners and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Their coach Juwan Howard used to raise the roof back in the day. Now it is time to raise those banners than Livers talked about. If nothing else Howard should rise above his piers and be named Big Ten and National coach of the year. Everybody and every thing is buying in from the inside brute and precision of 7-foot freshman center Hunter Dickinson to the crisp passing and offense of Franz Wagner and the stellar offense of Livers.
The Wolverines (17-1 overall, 12-1 in the Big Ten) are running away with the conference race following Thursday nights 79-57 victory over Iowa at Crisler Arena. Now team like Baylor and Gonzaga, who were considered out of reach, are well within reach and at some point will be targets of the spirited Wolverines.
This team is even beginning to resonate in the often sleepy college basketball hamlet of Ann Arbor where basketball takes a back seat to football 365 days a year. Wolverines are chirping about the defensive footwork of Chaundee Brown, who is strong enough and tough enough survive Hunger Game battles that dominate Spartans camp to the north.
Michigan was often considered the pretty boys of the Big Ten. Yeah, they had stars and could score points, but toughness wasn’t a word used to describe them. No more.
To steal a line from former Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, Dickinson built a “fucking wall” around Iowa star player Luka Garza and walled him off from pounding the Wolverines again. The Great Garza scored 77 points in two games against Michigan last season but struggled Thursday against the Great Wall of Dickinson, scoring just 16 points on 6-for-19 shooting.
Livers and Wagner are fantastic players, but let’s get a little geeky here. Does anybody else appreciate the defensive footwork of Brown, who stays between his opponent and the basket with a river dance of movement?
The Wolverines will be dancing soon, making a run in the NCAA tournament, usually reserved for Spartans and Blue Devils. It’s been a fun ride, from the 92-87 victory over Ohio State, one of the greatest games in Earth, to the methodical demolition of Iowa.
It’s been like a yo-yo on a string.Find Terry Foster Podcast here: