ANN ARBOR—Potentially looming in East Lansing this Saturday night is a battle of the Big Ten’s best. Both Michigan and Michigan State, barring the outcomes of contests this week, could walk into a battle for sole possession of first place in the conference.
Not so fast.
Sure, last year the Wolverines made the trip down US-23 appearing to be talented enough to hang with, possibly even beat, the Spartans inside the Breslin Center; but what followed was anything but competitive.
Michigan State laid the smack down on Michigan, to the tune of a 75-52 loss for the men in maize, a dominant performance from start to finish by Tom Izzo’s Spartans.
But right here, right now, the 21st ranked Wolverines aren’t thinking about revenge just yet.
“I think we’ve done a really good job, especially recently, of just focusing on what’s in front of us,” senior center Jordan Morgan said Tuesday. “As a program we have a one day at a time mentality and I think we’ve done a good job of that in practice.
“We had a good practice yesterday with a lot of intensity. We’re just focused on Iowa tomorrow.”
The 10th ranked Hawkeyes that is.
Sky high after a near wire to wire victory at Wisconsin Saturday night, the first for Michigan in Madison since 1999, the Wolverines are gearing up to host the surging Hawkeyes, a team not necessarily expected to have risen so high, so quickly, lead by senior wing Roy Devyn Marble and junior Aaron White.
“They’re really talented,” Michigan coach John Beilein said Tuesday. “Marble reminds me of Evan Turner right now. He’s just doing what he wants to do out there; he shoots threes, he passes, he steals, he rebounds, he’s a really good player.
“And Aaron White. You know, I coached Aaron with USA basketball this summer and he was good then but I can see that’s really helped him; he’s got a great deal of confidence. He’s hitting running hook shots and dunking on people -- he’s really good.”
15-3 overall including a 4-1 start to Big Ten play, Coach Fran McCaffery, now in his fourth season, has Iowa putting fear in opponents with an up and down attack and a team boasting experience, length, athleticism, and a tremendous ability to score the basketball, averaging 86.8 points per game.
Already with a win at No. 3 Ohio State, Michigan is well aware of the issues Iowa presents, looking to turn the page after the road win against the Badgers.
“I think most of them know right now that we talk about being champions everyday,” Beilein said. “And being champions has a lot to do with how you approach the next day’s practice.
“They know it’s not (like) it comes down to one game at the end of the year, it comes down to a multitude of games.”
Having been through several ups and downs throughout his career, Jordan Morgan, now with seven starts this season, is echoing the same sentiment as his coach.
“I said it before, every game is a championship for us,” Morgan said. “We’ve just got to keep playing our best game, every game.”