After a disappointing start to the new year, which featured just two wins in January, Michigan basketball kicked off February with a 69-63 victory over Rutgers at Madison Square Garden.
Thought the conversation as of late has been about the suspension of Zavier Simpson — although he did suit up Saturday — and the absence of Isaiah Livers due to a groin injury, luckily for the Wolverines, the story Saturday was about who was on the court. That was Brandon Johns Jr.
The sophomore forward scored a career high 20 points. The performance followed his 16-point game from last week.
Johns’ impression is important, because with the uncertainty surrounding Livers’ injury and the constant need for depth in college ball, two birds are taken care of for the Wolverines.
According to coaches and teammates, Johns’ performance wasn’t just a one day thing. It was building prior to the game with hard work and preparation.
“Brandon’s been playing great for us all year,” Juwan Howard told the Detroit Free Press following Saturday’s game. “A lot of the things that he’s been doing for his team to help us win is things that doesn’t really show up in the box score.”
“He’s worked hard every single day in practice, he gives it his all, he’s locked in,” point guard Zavier Simpson told the Freep. “Before the game, he’s sitting down with Coach Howard, watching film. It’s the small things like that I feel like come into play.
”I felt like his hard work is definitely paying off. He’s been in the gym lately, asking questions and in practices, asking questions for the players, things he can improve on. And at the end of the day, small things like that just add up.”
Amid uncertainty with staying consistent with its shooting and with injuries, Johns adds some much needed stability and depth to the Wolverines roster.
Ruiz grabs Top-10 interior lineman rating
With the Super Bowl concluding last night, all eyes now turn to the 2020 NFL Draft. Michigan football should have a few representatives, and one recently made a Top-10 positional list on Profootballfocus,
Outgoing junior and former Wolverine center Cesar Ruiz was ranked ninth on PFF’s breakdown of the draft’s interior lineman. Ruiz, a 6-foot-4-inch, 320-pound center, is ranked as the No. 94 prospect in the draft, per PFF. Here is what the site had to say about the center:
9. CESAR RUIZ, MICHIGAN
Draft Board Rank: 94th
The lone true junior on this list, Ruiz declared early because he’s already shown all the physical tools needed to succeed at center in the NFL. He’s so graceful for a 6-foot-4, 320-pound center that you often forget just how big he really is when watching his tape. He’s still not quite a power player, though, as indicated by his 64.9 run-blocking grade from last year, but at only 20 years of age, he could still develop a good deal physically.
It’s worth noting Michigan has not had another player mentioned in any of PFF’s Top-10 breakdowns this year. They have profiled the class’ quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and offensive tackles as well
Michigan still in the lead for Top-100 RB in 2021 class
There is some good news on the recruiting front, as the Wolverines are still in the lead to land Donovan Edwards, a Top-100 running back in the 2021 class.
Speaking to Sam Webb from The Michigan Insider, Edwards said he was impressed at his most recent trip to Ann Arbor, a visit that included several other 2021 commits.
“We feel like we could just build a powerhouse,” Edwards told Webb. “J.J. (McCarthy), Gio (El-Hadi), and the other guys being committed to Michigan… and that’s home for me, so it’s like, ‘dang, y’all are building something special right there.”
In case you were wondering, Juwan Howard still has it
A video of Michigan men’s basketball coach Juwan Howard swishing a behind-the-back shot from half court made its way around the internet Saturday, answering “yes” to anyone who might have been asking if he still had game.
Even better is the jubilation shown after the shot between Howard and his players. Regardless of what’s happening on the court for the team right now, they certainly know how to have fun.
- There is more news on the Tarik Black front, as the former Michigan wide receiver is now considering at least five schools as transfer destinations, according to Brian Dohn of 247Sports. The list includes Boston College, Texas, Miami (FL), Arizona State and Virginia.
- Much has been made about the Wolverines quarterback competition heading into next season, and it looks like another player is being added to the roster in the same position. MLive reports the team is taking on Traverse City Central senior and former Ithaca quarterback Peyton Smith as a walk-on.