Dan: Welcome to 2018 everyone and our first Mailing it in of the new year. I’m still Dan and he’s still Von. Ok man, we have a surprising amount to touch on with both basketball and football providing plenty of content. Where do you want to start this week?
Von: Hmm, let’s start with the in-season stuff. Michigan basketball is riding a six-game winning streak, and have looked pretty impressive during this stretch. The team defeated UCLA at home, Texas on the road and now Iowa on the road. There has been a lot of good from this team in the last month or so, but there have been some frustrating moments, too. Michigan relied heavily on the three-point shot against Iowa, and if they didn’t hit on 44 percent of them, they may have lost the game. But with the youth on the team, and with Wagner injured/struggling a bit, it’s good to see the W’s keep on coming.
Dan: Seriously! Ya know, after the Ohio State implosion I was incredibly frustrated with not just this team but the program as a whole. Even in good years, I’ve never found Michigan to be particularly tough or gritty. You’ve had guys like Trey and Walton and Caris who rallied people behind them but that’s more of an individual greatness thing. What I would do to see Beilein with a 6’10 shot blocker who is built like a house in the middle! I can only dream. With that said, this team feels different. As you alluded to, they’ve found different ways to win all these games against tournament teams despite their super star not playing at his highest level.
Von: Man, Mo Bamba would’ve looked good in the maize and blue... But yeah, they just keep finding ways to win. Forcing OT against UCLA and then winning by nine points was incredibly impressive. But, then again, the free-throw shooting woes in that game kind of prevented it from being a nine-point victory in regulation, so I digress. Regardless, the Wolverines have a tough stretch upcoming. After today’s home game against Illinois, they have to play home against Purdue and then on the road at MSU. The next few games are incredibly important to how Michigan ends the season, enters the Big Ten Tournament and, probably, the NCAA Tournament.
Dan: I personally don’t get too caught up in the regular season of college basketball — last year’s team was a perfect example as to why — but you’re not wrong. Getting wins against Purdue and MSU at this juncture puts a lot less pressure on the team to end the season on a tear. Can a team that beats UCLA, Texas, Iowa, Purdue and MSU while winning 22+ games be left out of the tournament? I don’t think so.
I actually like the way they have this season scheduled. They’ve put in some cupcake games between bigger matchups, which has clearly allowed them to tweak things from game to game. You can only do so much in practice. This is clearly evident by the headlines above. Three straight games where someone different is leading the charge and none of them are Baby Dirk. I wouldn’t dare compare the 2018 squad to the 2013 National Champs*, but the depth of scorers who can make an impact is similar.
Von: Wow, that’s a real solid point. I completely agree with that. Thanks to these cupcake games, Michigan is finding out who can hang (Livers) and who can’t (Robinson). These adjustments will be critical down the stretch, and if John Beilein is able to piece it all together the Wolverines should be a pretty solid seed come tourney time.
Dan: I sure hope so, my man. Keeping the positive vibes going, the “Face of the Program”, the golden locks of awesome, Chase Winovich is back next year to terrorize Big Ten quarterbacks. I seriously don’t think I’ve been this exciting about a returning senior since Brandon Spikes (and St. Timothy) returned to Florida back in my youth. I’m picturing an offensive line trying to block Chase, Aubrey, Gary, Bush, and Hudson on 3rd and long. Like, how? Michigan is returning three guys who were in the top 5-10 Big Ten sack leaders for essentially the entire season.... and the other two guys were 5-stars in the last two cycles.
Von: Winovich is back! Man, was I relieved to hear that news. I thought we had it good when Hurst and Hill came back this season, but having Winovich back next season is huge. Winovich played pretty much every snap in every game. The guy is a workhorse. If he left, there would’ve been a huge void to fill with him and Hurst both gone. Who even relieved Winovich when he had breathers? Carlo Kemp? I know he came in for Gary, but not sure if he was doing double duty. The WDE’s in the wings are both freshmen — Kwity Paye (who had some playing time this season) and Luiji Vilain (who did not play this year due to injury). Winovich coming back ensures 1) A ton of TFLs, 2) He will be the captain on defense, and 3) Amazing hair at Michigan.
Dan: Absolutely. The defense clearly is not only returning a ton of talent but a lot of leadership as well; guys who know what it takes to win 10+ games a year and compete for Big Ten titles, even if they haven’t won one themselves yet. I hope to see some similar maturity develop on offense. Someone like Zach Gentry or Chris Evans or Karan Higdon should fill that void. I know that both of us are high on the intangibles that Dylan McCaffrey and Shea Patterson bring. While the Outback Bowl clearly didn’t go as planned,
You wrote on the fall-out and where to go next here here
I wrote on it here
There is still optimism for the future. As we enter an offseason that should lead to significant coaching turnover on the offensive side of the ball, I think that we’re all curious what’s in store next.
Thanks for reading, everyone. We’ll see you back soon.