Nebraska hasn’t given up 100 points in a men’s basketball game in 14 years, but that streak might be in jeopardy Wednesday night at Michigan.
The second-ranked Wolverines (15-0, 2-0) have buried their first two Big Ten opponents — Northwestern 94-66 and Iowa 95-67. Don’t look for them to slow down while seeking the win that would match the best start in school history.
“We played a fantastic team,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Monday, less than 24 hours after seeing UM in person. “They have assembled an abundance of talent.”
For proof, check the national statistical rankings. The Wolverines are in the top five in the country in six major categories, plus No. 7 in scoring and No. 9 in rebounding margin.
For more proof, check the Big Ten player of the week list.
Michigan players have been honored in seven of the first nine weeks. Five times a Wolverine has won freshman of the week, with three players claiming that award.
The honorees this week are UM point guard Trey Burke as player of the week (21 points, 8.5 assists) and wing Glenn Robinson III as the top freshman (15 points, 7.5 rebounds).
An abundance of talent doesn’t guarantee success. But playing as unselfishly as Michigan does makes it work.
“This is a team with chemistry on the court and off the court,” Burke told AnnArbor.com. “We all bought in. And we all can play.”
Burke has joined Creighton forward Doug McDermott and Duke forward Mason Plumlee at the top of the national player of the year lists.
The 6-foot sophomore from Columbus, Ohio, looked long and hard at leaving for the NBA in the offseason. He was Big Ten freshman of the year and an honorable mention All-American in helping UM to its first conference title in 26 years.
But Burke turned down the money to come back and play for a national title.
“I just knew in the summer when the freshmen came in and they were eager to learn, just by their talent level,” he said. “We could do something special here.”
Michigan coach John Beilein isn’t looking anywhere that far down the road. But the 59-year-old sounds 19 when he discusses his team’s unselfishness — particularly that of Burke.
“Every day there are some things he does in practice that the truly great college players do,” Beilein said. “I’m not talking about some incredible one-on-one move, which he’s talented in.
“I’m talking about leadership, focus, emphasis on defense and emphasis on picking up teammates. We’re telling everybody on this team that the more you give, the more you’re going to get.”
Burke is third in the Big Ten in scoring (18.2) and first in assists (7.5). He has improved his field-goal shooting from 43.3 percent last year to 54.6 percent this year.
Junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. is fifth in scoring (16.4) and has boosted his shooting from 41.8 percent to 49.1 percent.
Freshman guard Nik Stauskas hit 3 of 6 3-pointers against Iowa, which stunningly dropped his accuracy rate to 53.7 percent. And Robinson is coming off his first double-double — 20 points, 10 rebounds, which boosted his averages to 12.5 and 6.1.
(Yes, Hardaway and Robinson are sons of famous fathers. Tim Hardaway Sr. played collegiately at UTEP and went on to become a five-time NBA All-Star. Glenn Robinson Jr. was the 1994 Big Ten player of the year at Purdue, and the overall No. 1 NBA draft pick that year.)
Oh, the last time Nebraska gave up 100 points? It was to a Billy Tubbs-coached TCU team in a 101-89 road loss in the second round of the 1999 NIT. Nebraska coach Tim Miles probably doesn’t know that, but is well aware of how good Michigan is.
Said Miles: “They give you the heebie-jeebies.”
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