Michigan is one of the three remaining undefeated teams in college basketball, but you wouldn’t know it by talking to the Wolverines.
Just two victories away from the best start in program history, Michigan is instead focused solely on getting better each day and preparing for the next game on the schedule.
If Michigan defeats Illinois Thursday night, the Wolverines will start the season 16-0, which would tie the 2013 team for the best start in school history.
“We really don’t talk about that,” junior center Jon Teske said. “We’re just going out there and playing our game. If it happens, it happens.”
The opponent standing in Michigan’s way of getting to 16-0 is Illinois. The Illini are 4-11 so far this season, but their defense under head coach Brad Underwood will provide a challenge for the Wolverines. Illinois’ defense is one of the best defenses in the nation at forcing turnovers and involves heavy pressure.
The Wolverines know what’s coming.
“Expect that it’s coming, expect that we’re going to have some turnovers that we normally don’t have, but stay disciplined and stay locked in, I feel like we’ll be fine,” junior point guard Zavier Simpson said. “They provide great pressure and we just have to adjust to it.”
The Illinois game is almost the midpoint of the season and after the game, over half of the regular season will already be over for Michigan.
“It feels like just yesterday we were starting practice with the young guys,” Teske said. “We’re taking it one game at a time. Once the games get going, the season rolls. But right now, we’re just taking it one game at a time, one practice at a time and we’re getting ready for Illinois.”
One player who might see some playing time against the Illini is freshman forward Brandon Johns Jr. who saw his first significant action of the season Sunday against IU when he had eight point off the bench.
“He’s grown so much,” Teske said. “The first time he got here in open gym, the first couple practices, he’s grown so much. From just being able to play on the outside to the inside, his presence, rebound the ball. He had eight or nine, in seven minutes, all his put backs for dunks, I’m really proud of him because he shows that every day in practice. For him to go out there and show everybody, I’m really proud of him.”
While the Wolverines are taking this season one game at a time, they still realize how special this moment is. Yet, they aren’t taking any game for granted.
“It’s a blessing to be 15-0 and at the same time we have to keep working,” Simpson said. “We can be 15-0 and lose the next five. So it’s important we stay focused on our next opponent.”