While Minnesota’s Marcus Carr is undoubtedly among the nation’s best guards, center Liam Robbins is the one who dominated the Gophers’ last game. The 7-foot junior posted 27 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks in Minnesota’s win over Ohio State en route to Big Ten Player of the Week honors.
On Wednesday, Michigan center Hunter Dickinson will be tasked with stopping Robbins. Dickinson leads the 10th-ranked Wolverines in points, rebounds and blocks, while Robbins has scored fewer than 18 points only once in No. 16 Minnesota’s last four games.
“I think this will be a very good matchup for me,” Dickinson said during a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday. “I’m excited to play against another really good big man, especially in-conference. I think this will be a good test for me and the rest of the team to see how we react after a nice win against a ranked opponent. I think we’d like to come out there and play really well and and show to the rest of the country that we’re for real and I think coach Howard and the rest of the coaching staff will put a good gameplan for me and the rest of the team to go against them.”
For Dickinson, the matchup should be his first true test against an opponent of equal physical caliber. Michigan’s first four Big Ten opponents — Penn State, Nebraska, Maryland and Northwestern — all lacked the size to stop the 7-foot-1, 255-pounder. Dickinson faced little challenge around the rim in those games, but Robbins (7-foot, 235 pounds) has the body to change that on Wednesday.
As the Wolverines study film ahead of Wednesday’s ranked showdown, a few areas of Robbins’ game have stood out.
“(Robbins) works hard. He also is a good shot blocker,” fifth-year senior guard Mike Smith said Tuesday. “And he does his work early. It’s not like Hunter has never played vs somebody of his caliber ever in his life. He just has to lock in and do his work early and not let him get the ball early on the post touch and also go attack him on offense. He has to guard Hunter and Hunter has to guard him, so it’s going to be a battle down there in the post. I’m excited to see it tomorrow.”
Dickinson has established himself as a force around the rim during the first nine games of the season, and much of Michigan’s offense now runs through him. His passing skills out of the post have been impressive, and he’s made other teams pay for sending double-teams. But when they don’t, they face his back-to-the-basket game without much help defense.
Given Robbins’ size, the Gophers likely won’t find themselves in that predicament. That might prompt Dickinson to step out and shoot a few more jumpers, especially after knocking down both his mid-range attempts in Sunday’s game against the Wildcats.
“Those two jumpers definitely gave me a confidence boost,” Dickinson said. “Those were my two first jumpers of my career at Michigan, so I was very relieved when they finally went down. I think I’m just going to try to take what the defense gives me. I’m not going to really try to force anything out there.
“Coach Howard has given me the green light within the offense to shoot whatever shots I’m comfortable with. And so as long as it’s within the offense, it’s a good flow, I think I’ll take some more.”
Even though Dickinson may try a few jumpers, his matchup against Robbins will be defined by their interior play. And it’s one that could decide Michigan’s game against the Gophers.