The Wolverines are 7-0 overall, atop the Big Ten standings at 2-0 in the conference and ranked No. 16 in the country. To say things are going well for Juwan Howard in year two would be an understatement.
One of Howard's top assistants, Phil Martelli, has been around the game as a coach for more than four decades and knows a good thing when he sees it. He recently lauded Hunter Dickinson and has routinely praised Howard for the culture he has created in a short amount of time. Earlier this week, he gave some very specific examples of what Michigan is trying to work on as they approach the meat of the conference schedule.
"We want to be in a position where we develop quality depth," Martelli stated. Michigan is an extremely deep team but efforts have been a tad inconsistent here and there. If all contributors can perform on a more regular basis, the Wolverines will be very hard to handle.
"We want to establish more offensive initiators," Martelli also said. He explained how last year everything went through Zavier Simpson, so it's still a work in progress in getting the offense going. Graduate transfer Mike Smith has been great, but Martelli listed Isaiah Livers, Franz Wagner, Eli Brooks and Wake Forest transfer Chaundee Brown as guys who can also get involved as point men.
"I think we will become an even fiercer rebounding team. We leave a lot of offensive rebound chances alone because we focus so much on transition defense," Martelli said. Defending against fast breaks is extremely important in today's world of college basketball, so that's not necessarily a bad thing. However with guys like Dickinson at 7-1, Wagner at 6-9 and Livers at 6-7, Michigan should be near dominant on the glass.
Finally, Martelli touched on the biggest area of concern for Michigan — defense. At times, U-M has struggled on that end of the floor, and Martelli broke it down to a very simple concept.
"One of the biggest keys is our one on one defense," he said. "We have to stop the ball because as I watch these Big Ten teams, I’m amazed by the scoring abilities of these individual players."
The Big Ten is loaded, but Michigan has an abundance of length, athleticism and intelligence. Those three things should make for an excellent defensive team, and the Wolverines have fallen short of that at times.
At the end of the day, 7-0 is 7-0, and Martelli will obviously take it. As an experience coach, he knows play has to improve everyday, especially in a murderous Big Ten.