Juwan Howard's Michigan announces arrival with wins over UNC, Gonzaga in Battle 4 Atlantis

Jack Baer
Michigan will be ranked next week. The only question is how high. (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)
Michigan will be ranked next week. The only question is how high. (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

In a college basketball season that has so far seen no dominant teams emerge, it is a preseason unranked team that suddenly has the best resume in the country. And a coach who is very quickly looking like the perfect hire for the program.

Michigan basketball re-entered the national discussion on Friday with a dominant 82-64 win over No. 8 Gonzaga, just a day after they rolled over No. 6 UNC while being led by first-year head coach Juwan Howard.

Senior point guard Zavier Simpson once again keyed the win with 13 points, 13 assists and six rebounds, while forward Isaiah Livers led all scorers with 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Center Jon Teske also chipped in a double-double with 19 points and 15 rebounds.

After that kind of day, all you can do is dance.

It was a very nice week for the Wolverines, who are still undefeated at 7-0 and are now the lone undefeated team with two top-10 wins.

Dream start for Juwan Howard

All of that is pretty good for a team that received only two votes in the preseason AP Poll and had to replace three double-digit scorers from last season — Iggy Brazdeikis, Jordan Poole and Charles Matthews — not to mention head coach John Beilein, who had led the Wolverines to two NCAA finals in his 12-year tenure in Ann Arbor.

To replace Beilein, Michigan turned to Howard, an alum known for his time as a member of the vaunted Fab Five in the early ‘90s. It seemed like a risky hire at the time, as Howard had no previous coaching experience at the college level. It’s already paying dividends on the court.

“I’ve been through a lot of adversity,” Howard said on a broadcast interview after the game. “This is not new to me, man. Talk about pressure? Yeah, I embrace pressure. I’m not going to run from it. I’ve done this all my life. Basketball is something I’ve been doing since I was six years old.”

Michigan will definitely be getting enough votes to be ranked this week. The only question is how high, and it’s hard to see a ceiling when you look at their resume. It could at least be high enough that next week’s game against current No. 2 Louisville will be a must-watch.

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