If Michigan fans want to thank anyone for their new, shiny No. 1 ranking — no trophies or banners quite yet — they could start with Glenn Robinson III.
On the same day that the Wolverines claimed the top spot in The Associated Press poll for the first time since 1992, Robinson was chosen the Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the second straight week.
The Wolverines advanced from No. 2 to take the No. 1 spot for the fourth time. They were there for 10 weeks in 1964-65, eight weeks in 1976-77 and three weeks at the start of 1992-93, the Fab Five’s second and final season together.
That season, Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson made it to the national championship game for the second straight year.
Jackson now lives in Texas, but he roots for the Wolverines from afar.
excited about it and I’m very proud of those boys,” Jackson said in a
telephone interview Monday. ”I’m really excited and pleased about what
Coach (John) Beilein has done to turn the program around.”
Robinson averaged 12 points and eight rebounds in Michigan’s wins over Purdue and Illinois, playing 75 of a possible 80 minutes. Robinson, who also has earned praise for his defensive skills, is averaging 12.1 points and 6.0 rebounds in 20 games, playing more than 30 minutes a game.
The Wolverines have won six Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards this season — three by Nik Stauskas, two by Robinson and one by Mitch McGary. Last year, Michigan won seven, all by Trey Burke.
With No. 1 Duke getting routed at Miami, the Wolverines cleared the path to the top ranking with double-digit victories over the Boilermakers and Illini. After that, it was just a nervous wait — for the fans, because Beilein and the players rightly claim not to care — for the AP poll to be released on Monday.
The poll finally came out in the early afternoon, and Michigan indeed moved into first place, picking up 51 of the 65 first-place votes. No. 2 Kansas, which remains No. 1 in the coaches poll, had 13 first-place votes, while No. 4 Florida picked up the final vote. Indiana is No. 3, while Duke fell to No. 5.
The Wolverines will make the first defense of their new ranking on Wednesday, when they host Northwestern. Then, Michigan faces a serious test on Saturday night at Indiana.
”Our goal at Michigan is to be No. 1 in the Big Ten. When you
achieve that honor, you will have a chance at the national
championship,” Beilein said. ”All through the year polls will spark
great interest among college basketball fans everywhere and that is
always good. Our coaches and players, however, will remain focused on
our goals of improving daily and competing for the championship within
Michigan State remained at No. 13 after its 75-70 loss Sunday at Indiana.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.