It started to become real after more-than-convincing wins over North Carolina and Purdue in less than a week. No Michigan fan wanted to look too far ahead, but that is the first time that 17-0 became an actual possibility. The next nine games were full of traps and pesky conference opponents, but a month and a half later, the summit has been conquered.
Of course, recording the best start in program history is not the main goal from this team. In fact, if March (and April) go poorly, 17-0 means nothing. Michigan can feel proud of this accomplishment, but there is so much left to still achieve.
On Sunday night, this team looked primed to accomplish everything it desires. In Part Two against Northwestern, the Wolverines completely took over. 1.25 points per possession (PPP) matched their best offensive output of the season, and 0.93 PPP on defense was an improvement over the first matchup in Evanston. History was made and there was no doubt about its legitimacy.
The best part about this Michigan team is that anyone can take over on a given night. Lack of reliance on just one scorer is one of the reasons this squad can go far. However, no one expected Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske to combine for 41 of the 80 points on Sunday.
Simpson is a streaky player, especially from deep, but he was electric against Northwestern. His 24 points came primarily from 5-of-10 shooting from deep, which is unlike anything he has shown before. Simpson recorded a 27.1 percent usage rate and 68 percent eFG, numbers that are extremely rare for the points guard.
Teske also flirts with the three at times, but he rarely shows a performance this impressive. He added nine rebounds and a pair of blocks to his three makes from deep, and he was practically unguardable for stretches of the game.
To be clear: Michigan’s best strategy does not revolve around these two players combing for 15 three-point attempts a game. But when everything is already clicking, it sure makes for a fun night with little risk.
The back seat once again
I think I may be at fault for hyping up the MBP trio a couple games ago. Since then, none of three main starters has look particularly convincing, allowing for bigger performances from Teske and Simpson. Against the Wildcats it was the same; Ignas Brazdeikis had a solid 11, but his peers did not fare as well.
Jordan Poole struggled for the second game in a row. He has made just two of his past nine attempts from deep and has been forcing his shot more than he needs to. Meanwhile, Charles Matthews started hot, but continues to have no ability in the mid-range. At this point his offensive game has been reduced to layups and dunks, and he might be better served focusing on these areas.
The fact that this trio has cooled down does have a bright side. The rotation may only go seven deep, but there always seems to be enough scoring. As long as all three players continue to contribute on defense, there is no need to worry yet.