Tuesday’s showdown with NC State provided the Wolverines their toughest test to date in this early season. With balance, a new banner and unselfish play, #3 Michigan will take the win, but have a higher gear they’re hoping to reach.
Fifteen minutes prior to the opening tip between Michigan and NC State Tuesday night, Crisler Center added a little bling to its rafters as the Wolverines raised the 2011-12 Big Ten Regular Season Championship banner, inducing a buzz throughout the newly renovated arena that lasted well into the night.
With every Trey Burke ankle-breaking crossover, every Nik Stauskas contested three ball, or celebratory screams from the mouth of Mitch McGary and Tim Hardaway Jr., the crowd in attendance was waiting to explode. Part of the edge of the seat atmosphere undoubtedly belongs to the long awaited banner ceremony, some due to the #18 team in the country being in town—but far outweighing it all is the realization that before fans eyes, in the all maize jerseys, stands the #3 team in the nation.
And a darn good team at that, as the Wolverines collectively and methodically disposed of a Wolfpack that is sure to hand several teams a check in the “L” column the rest of the season.
“I was happy when I saw the banner go up,” said Trey Burke. “I’ll be able to say in twenty years that we won the Big Ten championship back in 2012. It’s definitely big for us. But we want to win another one. We still have work to do. I think we did a good job of moving forward from the banner going up to the game.”
Similar to Michigan’s approach to workouts, open gym or even extra shots throughout the off-season, the Wolverines aren’t focused on what’s happened in the past. The 5-0 start has been impressive, but when Michigan took the floor and looked over at a long, athletic, talented and unafraid NC State team, it was as if the Wolverine’s warm-up shirts reading “we on” were pushing, motivating and energizing the entire team.
Mistakes were definitely made in the 79-72 win and John Beilein and the rest of his coaching staff will work to clean up the defense that allowed 72 points on 57% shooting, keeping the opponent out of the paint, and executing offensive sets the way they’re intended. But a win is a win, and against a team with as many potential NBA draft picks as NC State, it’s a good win no matter how it’s earned.
“We really played a very talented team today,” said John Beilein. “I just said on my radio show it was like our Arkansas game last year—that to get used to that quickness and that talent—I don’t think we ever got used to it. We gave up 57 percent (shooting) and they’re just so quick to the rim, their fast break—they run it right down your throat. We hadn’t seen that, and I know we’ll grow from it.”
“Extremely happy to get a win over a high quality team that will have a good year.”
Heading into the season, consistent productivity out of Burke from a scoring and assist standpoint was imperative. After an uneasy sophomore season last year the Wolverines hoped for the same from Tim Hardaway Jr. Jordan Morgan needed to continue his development along with a healthy Jon Horford inside. The talented freshmen class needed to fit in and understand the Michigan basketball culture.
The Wolverines thus far have gotten all of the above, and with a little swag, unselfishness and balance that allows for Hardaway Jr. to finish with 16 points, 11 points for Glenn Robinson III, 18 points out of Burke, and a game high 20 points from Stauskas.
Those numbers, a towel whipping bench, and a dive on the floor mentality, are just the right ingredients to a special season for a team setting goals as high, if not higher, than the new piece of cloth hanging from the top of Crisler Center.
“I think we have a lot of options, and I think most good teams do, but I like coaching these guys,” said Beilein. “Theres been a lot of good teams I like that are just really good kids to coach— they buy into what you’re doing, whether they played six minutes, didn’t play or played thirty-nine minutes, they have a similar attitude in the locker room. If we can maintain that unity, that’s going to be a big part of determining our success. That unity.”
To watch video of John Beilein’s post game press conference, press play below.