“I know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperately that you’re right, yet to fail nonetheless. It’s frightening. Turns the legs to jelly. I ask you, to what end? Dread it. Run from it. Destiny arrives all the same. And now, it’s here. Or should I say, I am.”
Michigan Basketball is out to a 15-0 start to the season and they have done so in impressive fashion. Are they obliterating every single team that they play? No, they aren’t, but that does not make what this group is doing less special.
Through 15 games, it’s hard to find a weakness with this team at this point in the season. This is as advanced and far ahead a Michigan team has been under Beilein as conference play gets rolling. It’s not that hot of a take to suggest that this is his best team since he’s arrived and his entire tenure at Michigan has led to this.
Over a decade’s worth of Michigan hoops acquiring assets in hopes to lay waste to the rest of the universe? Gee where have I heard that one before?
Right now, Michigan is college basketball’s version of Thanos and they appear to be making a play at their ultimate conquest this season. Sure, Michigan teams of the past have gotten hot late and played it into March success, but this is the first time it truly feels like a mission, no, a destiny-fulfilling journey for this program under Beilein.
Realizing a goal is a long process and it takes a lot of work. Hell, it took Thanos all of 19 Marvel films to acquire the six Infinity Stones. At one point, the stars aligned and the dude just went for it and made his play to take the final step on his journey and snap half of the universe out of existence.
The reason all of those stones achieve that together is because they each serve their own purpose. The Wolverines have their version of that in all of the pieces they have assembled and that have come together. There may be more than one scenario out of 14,000,605 possible futures where they can be defeated, but it is all right there for the taking.
So here is a comparison to each stone and why it may make them the ultimate power in the college basketball landscape to this point of the season.
Mind Stone - Zavier Simpson
The argument can be made that Simpson is not even one of the four or five best players on the team, but his smarts and court awareness allows him to make his impact in ways the box score does not tell. You cannot really explain it. It’s just there and it works. He erases players on the defensive end of the floor and puts his teammates in position to succeed on offense. His presence and leadership have played a big role in the personality of this team.
Soul Stone - Jordan Poole
A lot of nights, it feels like Michigan will go as Poole does. He does not need to score 20 points a game, but as long as he hits on some big shots and cashes in on opportunities, they have been in pretty good shape. As the biggest personality on the team, he is very much the heart and soul of this group.
Power Stone - Ignas Brazdeikis
So remember how in Infinity War the Avengers were already in a hell of a fight with Thanos and were still losing, then he up and throws a moon at them? Yeah, that is Brazdeikis. When these other ingredients are working and then he shows up, the odds are heavily against you. As good as the rest of this team is, on nights where he is on fire Michigan is an extremely tough team to defend.
Space Stone - Charles Matthews
When the Space Stone is activated, it will take you anywhere you want to go in the universe. That’s Matthews. When he plays like he did in the NCAA Tournament last year and like he did against Indiana on Sunday, Michigan will go on a deep run.
Time Stone - Luke Yaklich
Yaklich might just be the most valuable assistant coaching hire that Michigan has ever made under Beilein. When you play defense the way they do each trip down the floor, it slows a game down. We’ve seen Michigan have to win in track meets before, and they are still capable of that, but that they can grind out games with their defense is another valuable weapon they had not had until the last few years.
Reality Stone - John Beilein
This stone allows the user to bend reality to his or her will. Beilein has done just this. He has had to win shootouts and build his program in that image and now has adapted with teams that may not be as strong offensively, but can grind out games and choke you out on defense. Whatever he wants to do, he can. Whoever he wants to develop, he does.
This six ingredients are why Michigan Basketball is a legitimate national championship contender. With everything they have in place, it is all right there for them. It is still way too early to know whether or not they will be in Minneapolis for the Final Four, or heck, even win the Big Ten, but they are as dangerous as any team in the country.
There have been a few closer-than-anticipated games, but overall, Michigan has flat-out overwhelmed teams. One of the most interesting aspects about this team has been opposing coaches after the game praising their teams for how they fought while most nights getting run out of the arena.
The Avengers put up an admirable fight against Thanos, too. They lost.