In order to win all 17 games to start the season has required selflessness from the Michigan Wolverines.
No one is looking for personal accolades and on any given night, someone can become the leading scorer.
That’s how the Wolverines have gotten to 17-0, the best start in program history. Michigan’s players don’t care who gets the shots and the points – they simply care about the team and winning.
Against Northwestern, Michigan was led by a pair of juniors – point guard Zavier Simpson and center Jon Teske – who don’t normally put up huge scoring outputs. That’s what makes this Michigan team so hard to stop.
“Any time, five, six guys can go out and get double digits,” Teske said. “It’s hard to guard five, six guys like that.”
This start to the season was forged overseas with Michigan’s trip to Spain. While the roster was the same, the results weren’t the same. Thousands of miles from Ann Abor, the Wolverines had to figure out how to play without being selfish.
“We had to learn it,” redshirt junior guard Charles Matthews said. “We learned it heavily in Spain. We were not winning out there and we understand now we to sacrifice for the greater good of the team. Everybody has personal missions and individual goals, but we have to put that aside for the teams goals.”
Teske also saw the beginning of an unselfish team emerge in the summer.
“I think I saw it in the summer, especially in Spain,” Teske said. “I think that trip definitely helped us see what kind of team we are.”
That unselfishness allowed Teske and Simpson to have big nights against the Wildcats. Simpson had a team-high 24 points Sunday high, powered by five made three-pointers. Earlier in the season at Northwestern, Simpson missed all five of his attempts from deep with the Wildcats daring him to shoot.
When asked what was different, Simpson didn’t know.
“Nothing. I just have to keep shooting,” Simpson said. “Sometimes the ball doesn’t drop the right way.”
His teammates knew he had this performance in him.
“We both played great tonight,” Teske said. “ We both led the team in the first half. They’re sagging off him and I know X has put in a lot of work in the summer and these last couple practices and I know he has that in him. They were daring him to shoot and he did.”
Teske tied a season-high with 17 points, with a career-high three made threes. Simpson said Teske’s shooting helps to open up the floor for his teammates and allows others to create.
It’s been a radical transformation for Teske.
“Jon went from a guy who as soon as he would say a word, would turn red,” Simpson said. “Now he’s a guy in the locker room making jokes and knocking down three-pointers.”
While 17-0 is certainly an accomplishment, Michigan knows bigger goals lie ahead.
“You don’t win championships with 17 games, 17 wins,” Matthews said. “We’re just trying to be winning at the end of March, beginning of April.”