Dan Dakich: Michigan ‘Can Beat Anybody,’ Is The ‘Best Team’ In The Big Ten
Juwan Howard and Michigan Wolverines basketball is off to a hot start so far this season, touting a 10-0 overall record and 5-0 mark in the Big Ten. The Maize and Blue took down two ranked opponents, No. 19 Northwestern (85-66) and No. 16 Minnesota (82-57), last week, turning the heads of national media members.
Consider ESPN analyst and former college basketball coach Dan Dakich impressed. He has the Wolverines in the nation’s top tier and as a national title contender.
“I’ll tell you what, Michigan’s as good a team I’ve seen all year,” Dakich said when appearing on The Huge Show. “I haven’t done a Gonzaga game, but if you’re going to give me Michigan, Baylor, Gonzaga and Iowa, I’ll give you the field to win or get to the Final Four. Those four teams are pretty good.
Every Big Ten team goes through its trials and tribulations during the course of the season, even the contenders for the regular-season crown. The champion will likely have five or six losses when it’s all said and done. While acknowledging all of that, Dakich loves how Michigan is playing right now and projects the Wolverines to keep the good times rolling going forward.
“They’re going to lose. Somebody is going to beat them,” Dakich said. “But I’ll tell you this: They’re playing at a high level right now. They went back and forth, and Maryland hit some shots in the game I did. But when you’re a really good team, it seems like the basketball time, 40 minutes, is the perfect amount of time to expose the other team, if that makes sense, because over the course of 40 minutes, Maryland — particularly without Darryl Morsell — wasn’t going to play with Michigan. They kept it close in the first half, but over the course of 40, you weren’t doing that.
“And then [against Minnesota], that was a destruction against a team that is very inconsistent but very talented. That was over early, and you never felt, even at halftime or anywhere else, that this was going to be anything other than an ass-beating, truthfully. And I’m not saying Minnesota’s a good team — they’ve played inconsistently — but Michigan made ‘em look sick.”
The analyst said he’s been impressed with all of the different weapons the Wolverines have, including fifth-year senior guard Mike Smith, a Columbia transfer.
“Michigan [is the best team in the Big Ten],” said Dakich. “I think they’re the most complete team I’ve seen. They can score on anybody, they can beat anybody. If it’s Iowa and Michigan on a neutral site, it’s probably a pick ‘em kind of game, if you’re looking at point spreads. Right now, the team is Michigan.”
Another Big Challenge Upcoming For Michigan Basketball Freshman Hunter Dickinson
Freshman center Hunter Dickinson has been phenomenal while exceeding expectations in the first 10 games of his college career. The 7-1, 255-pounder is leading the team in scoring (18.0 points per game) and rebounds (8.1), while shooting 73 percent from the field, an almost unheard of number for such a volume shooter.
“He wants to stay down in the post,” Dakich said. “It was only until the last couple games where he took a jump shot. That dude wants to go on the block and physically beat you up, he wants to win the game on the block, and I think that’s great. It’s different. And, you know what, credit Juwan Howard — he’ll throw it in there.”
He just scored a career-high 28 points against Minnesota junior center Liam Robbins, a very good defender and player overall, but there are tougher challenges ahead, including against Wisconsin Tuesday. The Badgers have two tough veteran big men in senior Nate Reuvers and fifth-year senior Micah Potter.
“You have to be able to guard him with Reuvers, and one of the things that Wisconsin does well is they’re decent at guarding their own man. And one of the things you have to do with Michigan is you gotta keep your own man in front.
“Here’s why: Look, you’re not holding anybody scoreless, we know that, so if I keep my man in front of me, he’s gotta shoot a jump shot in front of me — that doesn’t mean Michigan can’t make them. But if I have to help, Michigan has shown itself to be unbelievably, incredibly unselfish — just really, really unselfish — so I have to make sure that I don’t have to have help from somebody else.
“Then the next thing you have to be able to do: Every shot Dickinson makes has to be from over me, No. 1, and from five to 10 feet out, meaning he can’t just sit down in front of me and step over me. I’ll tell you what, against Maryland, he started stepping over Maryland and getting shots at the rim where he just flips them in. You can’t do that; he’s gotta be forced to make those same shots five feet out from where he makes them. To be frank, I think Wisconsin is pretty good at that.”