You're not going to get Juwan Howard to say much about Michigan's 9-0 start, and he certainly won't address the rankings, but don't look now — Michigan is in the top ten per the AP Poll.
Michigan is up six spots — the largest jump among the top 25 teams — after dismantling then-No. 19 Northwestern last night by 19 points.
Sophomore Franz Wagner has taken his game to a new level as of late and when he's good, Michigan is good. Wagner is averaging 14.8 points and 7.0 rebounds per game while shooting 33% from three-point land on 21 attempts. He's also playing the best defense of his Michigan career having committed just seven fouls in four games while leading the team with eight blocks. His five-block effort against the Wildcats last obviously inflated those numbers but the bottom line is, he's getting it done on both ends.
Wagner would be the main headliner with a four-game run like that if it weren't for true freshman center Hunter Dickinson who is averaging 19.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game in conference play. Dickinson has been a little turnover prone with 11, but he's also been very good as a facilitator and obviously as an offensive player. He's shooting a blistering 73% from the floor and even stepped out and hit a few 18-footers last night against Northwestern. Dickinson is getting whatever he wants right now — if he's doubled, he finds open teammates. If he's played straight up, he gets a bucket. If he's forced out, he's now shown that he can knock down a jumper. He's been as close to unstoppable as any freshman at Michigan in recent memory.
Sprinkle in perfect fits like Mike Smith from Columbia and Chaundee Brown from Wake Forest and you get a 9-0 team even though senior Isaiah Livers has been somewhat quiet. Howard and Brown have both mentioned that Livers is battling through an injury, but he's still averaging 11 points per contest in four conference games. It's pretty crazy to think about Michigan blasting good teams by 20 or when its perceived best player has been arguably the least impactful starter. That's not even a knock on Livers as the other five have just been so good.
Michigan hasn't faced the cream of the crop in the Big Ten yet, but a 20-point win over a good Northwestern team and a road win against a very capable Maryland team seem to suggest that this team is for real regardless of opponent. The upcoming home contest against a 10-2 Minnesota team on Wednesday will be another good test for Howard and his guys, but U-M will likely be favored by a decent amount as they try to remain unbeaten.