NEW YORK CITY, NY. — Ask the Michigan men’s basketball team who its best trash talker is, and you’ll get somewhat mixed results.
Brent Hibbits said it was Jordan Poole. Poole said it was Zavier Simpson. Isaiah Livers threw Moritz Wagner into the conversation.
In the past, the chippiness wasn’t associated with the Michigan men’s basketball team. We all remember when Illinois’ Maverick Morgan called last year’s team white collar, and this season’s Wolverines have acknowledged they have more swagger than previous teams.
With Poole and Wagner, the distinction seems obvious. Both go viral on social media with their celebrations, so it stands to reason that they’d be main culprits in the trash talking department.
Simpson is a little different. He’s quiet in interviews, and he doesn’t scream and yell on the court. His game is more workmanlike. But around the Michigan locker room, and on the court, Simpson’s trash talk is very well-known.
But talking trash is about more than fun. It’s about the pride each player has, and sometimes it’s strategic.
That’s why Friday’s game against Nebraska got chippy. Michigan remembered the 20-point loss the Cornhuskers handed them in January, and it remembered how Nebraska — namely forward Isaac Copeland Jr. — talked trash while doing it.
So the Wolverines returned the favor.
They dominated the Cornhuskers, 77-58, and made sure to tell Nebraska about it along the way.
Then, in the locker room, the Wolverines discussed how jawing and swagger has become a part of their identity, and why it came to a head on Friday.
Livers: “We’re gonna ride for our brothers. The people that are spectating, or they’re on the bench, or around, we’re always gonna ride for our brothers. We’re not gonna let anybody just talk whatever they want to anybody. Last time, they were talking stuff to us at Nebraska, so we had to show them that we’re not punks — that we’re not soft.
Pointing to Poole: “That’s a trash talker right there. He doesn’t keep his mouth shut ever.”
Poole: “I definitely brought it in (this summer). I kind of felt like I made it more visible, but guys already had it. Like (Simpson), he was here last year, but he was a freshman, and he was kind of chilling. When you see (him) and you see guys talk like that, when you get other guys around him with me and (redshirt sophomore guard) Charles Matthews and Moe and guys with so much energy, and they just kind of feed off that, you kind of just gel together. You just become tougher as a unit. Practices were tough, and people were in to it all the time, and nobody wanted to lose. That kind of built up in to the point we’re at now.
“Who’s the best trash talker? (Simpson) for sure.”
Simpson: “You should go tell Jordan he shouldn’t be doing no snitching.”
Sophomore center Jon Teske: “(Simpson) lives for it.”
Livers: “He’s slick. If you make him a trash talker, he’s gonna talk his trash.”
Teske: “He gets under people’s skins easily. He can get in people’s heads.”
Wagner: “He does that same stuff to everyone in practice. I definitely can see that. It’s funny when you’re on the same team. It’s a lot more fun when you’re on the same side. He’s doing a great job. But Zavier does so many things.”
Simpson: “I trash talk a little bit. But then again, some games, you just got to play. You just got to play and let your game do the talking.
“It just kind of comes with the flow of the game. I don’t mind it. It motivates me more. But, somebody might bump you and you may just look back like, ‘Man, what’s that?’ And then they might say something. But then again, you just trying to get the win.”
Wagner: “Simpson is leading us from the point guard position, and we just go after him and do the same thing.”
Livers: “(Poole and Simpson are) both pretty cool, but when someone bumps or says something smart to them, they’re gonna flare. You can’t hold them back. They’re gonna keep talking for the rest of the game. The other team initiates it, and then the whole team gets into it and starts talking.”
Poole: “This game, in particular, we kind of knew that (Nebraska) kind of, like, feeds off stuff like that. So if they can punk you and they can bully you, they kind of feed off that momentum. But when you kind of come out there and smack them in the mouth, guys don’t like that. But I think when I go out there, and when guys start talking, that’s kind of like my realm. I like getting in other people’s heads and stuff. So, trying to be as ratchet as possible. Just say stuff that’s as ratchet as possible. And they take it to the head, and they get locked out of their game.
“Like, Copeland was talking stuff the first game. This game, we started talking back. We were jawing at him, always in his ear the whole time. And he couldn’t make shots. He was getting frustrated. And when we see guys like that, it’s definitely a big-time thing to see guys shut down.”
Livers: “(Simpson) was making (Glynn Watson Jr.) a little frustrated today. He had him a little frustrated — on the ropes. All (Simpson) did was say one little thing and got into his little head. I don’t know what he said, but it works on everybody.”
Simpson: “But you could kind of tell, Nebraska came out kind of with a chip on their shoulder. Came out kind of rough. You can do that, but if you do that, you’ve gotta be prepared for what comes with it. We did a little trash talking. Didn’t get any techs, which is a good thing.”
Poole: “(Copeland) was definitely kind of the ringleader of the whole trash talking thing. But the other guys, they tried to bark, but you can kind of tell that’s kind of not who they are as people. We let them know how we are. The other Michigan teams weren’t as tough, and they wouldn’t say anything back, but we’re definitely there. Mentally, we’re gonna say something back. And I think that’s why we’ve been so successful on the court as a team.”
Wagner: “I think it’s just us in a way. You can’t be too extra. You can’t be dealing with stuff that’s not in our control. You’re not gonna give us cr — stuff, and don’t get anything back. I think we’re all built like that.”