Freshman forward Glenn Robinson III, alongside the four other Wolverines that comprise Michigan’s freshman class, is taking a class this semester called “The Cultures of Basketball.” It’s a favorite among Michigan students, but even more so among the basketball players, for obvious reasons.
On Monday afternoon, their professor, Santiago Colas, walked into class and announced something new to his class, something he or anyone in Ann Arbor hasn’t been able to say in more than 20 years.
He told his class, and the players, that the Michigan basketball team was the No. 1 team in the country. Now sitting in Colas’ class, Robinson wasn’t born the last time that happened.
The players recieved a standing ovation from their classmates.
“A smile broke out across our faces,” Robinson said. “But it’s business. The hardest thing is staying on top.”
Michigan (6-1 Big Ten, 19-1 overall) will most likely be without its starting center, redshirt junior Jordan Morgan, on Wednesday when it tips off against Northwestern at the Crisler Center.
Morgan suffered a right-ankle injury less than two minutes into Michigan’s 74-60 victory over Illinois on Sunday. While Michigan coach John Beilein said that the ankle was probably sprained and an X-ray showed no sign of a broken bone. He did say there was “a lot of discoloration” in the ankle, and that he didn’t expect Morgan to practice or play in the next couple days.
Michigan’s leading big man has started all 20 games this season, averaging a little over six points and five rebounds per game. His numbers don’t tell the whole story, though, as Morgan is seen as the vocal and physical leader of the defense.
“Jordan has really learned how to be a defensive specialist in some regard,” Beilein said. “He does a wonderful job for us in the last line of defense … if everything breaks down and he plays it poorly, we would give up a lot of layups.”
Beilein said that they would have “some sort of competition in practice” to see who would be starting in place of Morgan, but it seems to be a decision between freshman Mitch McGary or redshirt sophomore Jon Horford. Beilein also downplayed the significance of who starts, since McGary and Horford will likely play the same amount of minutes on Wednesday.
Redshirt freshman Max Bielfeldt, who averages less than six minutes a game, will also play a role in picking up Morgan’s 20 minutes per game. Both potential starting big men have stamina issues — Horford is coming off a left-knee dislocation that sidelined him for a month, and McGary plays at such a high intensity that he gets winded after long stretches on the court, so Bielfeldt will be counted on for significant minutes on Wednesday.
In terms of the Big Ten schedule, Morgan’s injury might have come at the perfect time. On Saturday, Michigan travels to Bloomington to take on an offensive juggernaut in No. 3 Indiana. Wednesday, Michigan plays Northwestern (3-5, 12-9), which averages almost 20 points less per game than the Hoosiers and don’t have a big presence down low.
The Wildcats have been dealing with the loss of their best player since December. Senior forward Drew Crawford was ruled out for the season after suffering a right-shoulder injury.
The loss of Crawford raised a lot of questions about the Wildcats, and through a month of Big Ten play, not many of them have been answered.
It’s been a season of inconsistencies so far in Big Ten play. In the Wildcats’ last game, they lost by 15 to a Nebraska team that had one previous conference win. This was coming off three straight strong performances, including wins at then-No. 23 Illinois, at home against then-No. 12 Minnesota and a close loss to then-No. 2 Indiana.
It’s difficult to gauge how Michigan will play without Morgan for the first time this season, but even that’s easier then trying to figure out which Northwestern team shows up.
Morgan or not, the Wolverines shouldn’t have an issue in their first game on the No. 1 perch.