|ESPN.com: Dick Vitale||[Print without images]|
There is a lot of enthusiasm on the campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan these days. My friends, John Beilein's Michigan Wolverines are for real, baby! They are legit contenders for the national title.
It has been a while since I have said that. You can look back at the Fab Five, or the 1989 national champions led by Glen Rice. This year's Michigan team has an unblemished record of 16-0 following a win over Nebraska Wednesday. The 16-0 start matches the 1985-86 team for the best start in school history. Looking ahead, this team has all the pieces to make a serious run in March and early April.
When breaking down Michigan, it starts in the backcourt. Trey Burke has been an All-Rolls-Royce performer this season, dishing the rock, scoring, playing defense. Tim Hardaway Jr. has matured as a player, and his growth on the court has been a real positive. Then throw in the outside shooting of Nik Stauskas, the diaper dandy, who has put up impressive numbers.
The Wolverines have also been productive up front. Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary have contributed as diaper dandies. Robinson, the son of the Big Dog, former Purdue All-American Glenn Robinson, recently had his first double-double. Add in Jordan Morgan's effort on the glass and you have an unbeaten power. Morgan is averaging over five rebounds a game while playing about 21 minutes per contest.
Now Michigan faces back-to-back challenges on the road, after recording three consecutive 15-point victories to open Big Ten play for the first time since the 1987-88 season. The Wolverines visit rival Ohio State on Sunday before going to red-hot Minnesota. The Golden Gophers opened a few more eyes with a big-time win at Illinois Wednesday.
With the combination of veterans like Burke and Hardaway, coupled with the new blood infused by the diaper dandies, Michigan will be ready for these two Big Ten tests. To win the conference, you have to do damage on the road.
Michigan is among the nation's leaders in field goal percentage, shooting 51.4 percent while holding opponents to 40. The average score this season is 81-59. Only three games have been decided by single figures -- Pittsburgh by five, NC State by seven and Bradley by eight. The Wolverines also have wins over Kansas State and West Virginia on their résumé.
Another major positive is Michigan's domination on the glass, outrebounding opponents by almost 10 per game. Opponents are not getting to the foul line very often, making just seven per game against Michigan.
This is a very good squad. We will find out just how good over the next two games.