The Michigan Wolverines played a basketball game on Wednesday night and came out with a victory. It just was not against the team they were originally scheduled to play. Such is life in 2020 amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic.
Michigan, who was originally set for a tilt with NC State, filled that slot in the span of a day and a half in the form of the Toledo Rockets and ran them out of Crisler Center by a score of 91-71.
The Wolverines were once again led by a strong showing from freshman center Hunter Dickinson, who had 18 points and seven rebounds. Isaiah Livers had 16 points in the victory.
Here are three observations from the win.
Despite being well into his second season on the job at Michigan, head coach Juwan Howard still seems to be checking off all the boxes that show he might be a really good basketball coach. We discussed rotations the other night and how instead of calling for changes, it might be best to let him keep rolling his guys out there like hockey lines. They kept the starting lineup the same on Wednesday and the success was the same, as it was the fifth-straight game of more than 80 points scored this season.
Something that remains impressive is how Howard prepares his teams on short notice. This was scheduled as a night that featured a totally different opponent, but Michigan had to adjust on the fly with about 1.5 days of prep for Toledo. While far from an elite opponent, the Wolverines responded with their most complete effort of the season. The true test of coaching on a quick turnaround comes in March and the pandemic took that away from us at the end of last season. But like the Battle 4 Atlantis last year, Michigan responded on the fly about as well as one could. It’s obviously a bit different, but in the ever-evolving environment that college basketball is being played in this year, that’s pretty admirable no matter who you play.
Hunter’s been ready, but now it might his time
Dickinson turned in another impressive performance on Wednesday night, finishing with 18 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. This is hardly surprising at this point, but the center job might be his moving forward until we know what is going on with Austin Davis’ foot. It was a non-contact injury and did not look good upon replay, but we will have to wait and see what comes of it.
The freshman star has been bullying teams all throughout non-conference play. In whatever role he winds up having moving forward, he is ready for the challenge of Big Ten competition.
Non-conference play comes to a close
Michigan most impressive during its non-conference slate of games, but it is a bummer that their biggest test in NC State did not wind up happening. Toledo was the best team they have played to this point, as they were ranked No. 102 on KenPom coming into the evening. Outside of the scare against Oakland, though, this has been a team that has put in some pretty thorough efforts and flashed a bench that looks like it can go as many as ten deep. To a certain extent, we do not know what they are yet, but they look as ready for conference play as one can possibly be right now.
Next up for Michigan is a tilt with Penn State on Sunday in Ann Arbor to open up the Big Ten slate, followed by 12 days off before playing the first road game of the season at Nebraska on Christmas Day.