The best way to describe the Michigan men’s basketball team’s newest lineup combination is, well, BIG.
The Wolverines have recently opted to play 7-foot-1 junior center Hunter Dickinson and 6-foot-10 freshman forward Tarris Reed Jr. at the same time, using size to their advantage. Debuted against Iowa and ran more extensively against Northwestern, the lineup has already proven effective.
“With Hunter, I at least know my role specifically,” Reed said after Michigan beat Northwestern Sunday. “When he catches the ball, I know when to dive. I know he’s a skilled big, so he’s looking to pass. I know when to crash for rebounds, and defensively I’m going to do me.”
In their first appearance, Dickinson and Reed flashed potential when sharing the floor. Whenever Dickinson caught the ball in the high post, Reed’s instincts kicked in. He knew when to dive, and that Dickinson would find him. But Reed struggled to catch the ball on the dive which, combined with a lackluster 1-for-4 shooting performance, overshadowed what could’ve been a revelation for the Wolverines.
Instead, that revelation came three days later at Crisler Center.
With junior forward Terrance Williams II relegated to the bench for most of the second half, Michigan coach Juwan Howard turned to freshman forward Will Tschetter to fill in at the ‘4’ while Dickinson and Reed rotated at center. Both lineups found some success, keeping pace with the Wildcats in the back-and-forth affair. But when Dickinson checked back into the game with 9:50 remaining, Reed stayed on the floor — and it made all the difference.
“When (Dickinson) checked in, he was like, ‘Yo, Tarris you stay on,’ ” Reed said. “I’m like ok, bet, I already know what we’ve got to do. We did this last time, so it’s going to be better this time. It’s not perfect, but I’m going to make sure I do a better job than the Iowa game.”
The potential flashed in Iowa became more realized against Northwestern.
Down by one point upon Dickinson’s return, the duo went on a tear in the ensuing seven minutes. Combining for nine points and eight rebounds in that stretch, Dickinson and Reed helped Michigan regain its lead. The pair’s size allowed them to dominate the glass, something the Wolverines have struggled with all season. When Reed returned to the bench with 2:16 left to play, the turnover was evident as the Wolverines led by 10 points. Going big proved decisive for Michigan, pushing it over the edge against an experienced Wildcat squad.
Not only did Dickinson and Reed excel on the offensive end, though, the duo flourished on defense, too. While on the floor together, Dickinson and Reed helped hold Northwestern to just nine points.
The Wolverines can go big because Reed isn’t a liability when guarding a ‘4’ or when switched onto a guard. Because as big as he is, Reed is agile enough on his feet to hold his own against most perimeter players. With Reed emerging as a capable defender on the perimeter, Dickinson can retain his role as Michigan’s rim protector.
Reed also possesses the tools to become an elite interior defender himself. His size, strength and instincts help him clog lanes and, when paired with Dickinson, they can put the paint on lockdown. In their seven minute stretch together, Northwestern scored just two buckets in the paint.
“Look at the last eleven minutes of the ball game, with Tarris and Hunter on the floor,” Howard said. “Hunter is a very smart, high-IQ player who played with another big before, being Moussa (Diabate). It was nothing new to him. But, Tarris is starting to get his feet wet.”
Dickinson and Reed sharing the floor is the Wolverines’ newest lineup variant, and it’s showing promise as one of their most potent. Reed even dubbed a nickname for the duo on the court together:
“Thump and Bump.”
If Dickinson and Reed can continue to build off the success they displayed against the Wildcats, the pair provides Michigan with a dangerous lineup in its arsenal. A lineup that’s big, but effective. A lineup that overpowers and overwhelms.
A lineup that thumps and bumps.