Men's Basketball

Freshman wing Franz Wagner seemingly turned a corner against Iowa on Friday.

The crowd inside Crisler Center erupted, the Michigan bench jumped to its feet in excitement and Wagner strolled away smiling ear to ear. The fact that the sequence increased the Wolverines’ lead to 16 points was trivial. What the slam meant in the grand scheme of things was much more meaningful.

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As the modern style of men’s basketball continues to evolve with an emphasis on 3-point shooting, teams across the collegiate and professional ranks have ditched the traditional ‘5.’

But not in the Big Ten, and not in Ann Arbor.

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Michigan teams of years past have at times tended to rely on a few players – the Jordan Pooles and Moritz Wagners – for much of their success. But so far this season, the fourth-ranked Wolverines have been winning more on the strength of the many than the success of a few.

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All game, the No. 4 Michigan men’s basketball team had one roadblock to an otherwise easy win: Iowa big man Luka Garza.

Michigan coach Juwan Howard scouted Iowa before any other Big Ten team this summer.

That process will finally be put to use on Friday night when Michigan opens up Big Ten play against Iowa at Crisler Center. Having seemingly worked through the schedule sequentially, Howard scouted the Hawkeyes before anyone else.

Going into Tuesday night, senior point guard Zavier Simpson led the nation in assists, but Louisville limited his effectiveness.

Leading up to Tuesday night’s game against top-ranked Louisville (8-0), the No. 4 Michigan men’s basketball team (7-1) had found its calling card in exactly that. Coming off wins against then-No. 6 North Carolina and No. 8 Gonzaga at the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in which they averaged over 75 points per game, the Wolverines’ ball-screen offense was rolling. As for what Michigan had to show for it, senior point guard Zavier Simpson — a Preseason All-Big Ten selection — entered Tuesday night leading the nation in assists. His effectiveness in both passing and finishing at the rim out of the pick-and-roll was a driving force to the Wolverines’ undefeated November. But on Tuesday night, the Cardinals made it difficult for him to do either from the start. They hedged hard on some screens and sagged off of others, leaving Simpson uncertain of what to expect. Ultimately, Michigan’s offense struggled to adapt in its 58-43 loss.

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Just seven games into his tenure, the first-year coach has already scored a pair of top-10 wins. In doing so, he slayed two coaching juggernauts in North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Gonzaga’s Mark Few — both of whom rank top-10 in all-time winning percentage — en route to claiming last week’s Battle 4 Atlantis.

Senior center Jon Teske scored 19 points against Gonzaga on Friday.

Three days and three quality wins later, the Wolverines are proving that they have a lot more potential than anyone was giving them credit for. They defeated No. 8 Gonzaga, 82-64, on Friday in the championship of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas, their second win over a top-10 team in as many days, as their defense stifled the Bulldogs’ imposing transition offense.

Junior guard Eli Brooks scored 24 points in Michigan's win over North Carolina.

Though the Tar Heels would claw their way back late in the second half, the Michigan men’s basketball team (6-0), held on to hand No. 6 North Carolina (5-1) its first loss of the season, 73-64, behind a second-half offensive explosion.

Sophomore center Colin Castleton helped Michigan weather the storm when Jon Teske got into foul trouble.

Whenever Jon Teske stumbled into foul trouble last season, it often spelled trouble for the Michigan men’s basketball team. With the Wolverines lacking a dependable backup ‘5,’ they struggled to navigate long stretches without their 7-foot-1 starting center.