ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan’s explosive offense was supposed to stall once the young Wolverines hit Big Ten play.
Thus far, they haven’t even slowed down.
Three days after putting up 94 points against Northwestern, the Wolverines blew out Iowa, 95-67. Michigan (15-0, 2-0 Big Ten) likely would have had its first 100-point conference game in 15 years had John Beilein not taken his starters out with almost four minutes to play.
“I like Iowa’s team, and I think they are going to be very good down the road,” Beilein said. “But I like our team right now. We did a lot of good things today.”
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, whose team had narrowly missed an upset of Indiana on Monday, was impressed by Michigan’s teamwork.
“They have so many offensive weapons that it is almost impossible to contain them for any period of time,” McCaffery said. “That can also be a problem, though, because on a lot of teams, all of those weapons would be thinking about themselves.
“Michigan’s got guys who are going to the NBA, but you don’t ever see them playing selfishly. That’s an incredible job of coaching by John and his staff.”
Beilein acknowledged that selfless play is an important part of his philosophy.
“We recruit it, and then we preach it every day,” he said. “But that’s all we can do.
“The kids have to buy into it, and they’ve done that every day. They don’t take a drill off in practice, and they don’t take a play off in the games.”
Beilein, though, has coached several teams that understood his system and worked hard. This team is different for another reason, and he’s the first to point it out.
“Every team I’ve coached has run, but they’ve never run this fast,” he said. “This group is more athletic than any team I’ve had, and that’s both vertical and down the floor.
“At the end of the first half today, we got a rebound with 3.6 seconds left, and Glenn (Robinson III) is laying the ball in at the buzzer. You’ve got to have wheels to even get into position for that.
“If you ask my old players, they might dispute it, but in their heart they know that, while some of those teams were very good, none of them were this good.”
For 13 minutes on Sunday, the Hawkeyes thought they had found a way to keep Michigan in check. They led 21-17, and the Wolverines were missing shots that they would normally knock down.
“I think for the first 10 or 15 minutes, you saw two really strong Big Ten teams battling it out and trying to find their feet,” Beilein said. “But the good thing about our team is that they know they can’t win with highlights. They keep doing the easy, simple things, and that’s what made it work.”
Michigan scored 29 points in the final seven minutes of the first half, then put up 49 more in the second half.
“We were right in the game, but we let them get going in transition, and it was over,” McCaffery said. “We kept trying to stem the tide with our offense, and that’s never going to work.
“The only way we were going to stop them was with our defense, and that wasn’t going to happen.”
At the center of it all, as always, was Trey Burke. The sophomore point guard strengthened his case as the nation’s best player by putting up 19 points and 12 assists, with just one turnover. More than one of his assists came on an alley-oop for Robinson.
“He sees the floor so well, and we’ve made a good connection,” said Robinson, who finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds. “We’ve been practicing lobs, and it paid off today.”
Robinson wasn’t the only one dunking, though. Michigan slammed so many basketballs that the Hawkeyes stopped counting.
“I don’t even want to see how many times they dunked on us tonight,” said Anthony Clemmons, who had 12 points and seven assists. “Our whole game plan coming in was to stop their transition game, and then we didn’t do anything. We just let them go, and they embarrassed us.”
Clemmons can take some solace in the fact that the Hawkeyes are hardly the first team to be unable to stop Michigan’s attack. The Wolverines have averaged at least 1.1 points per possession in every game this season, and they currently lead the nation with a 1.35 average.
“That’s something I admire, because I know the value of every possession,” Burke said. “Being the point guard, it is my job to get the ball to whoever needs it, and the more I do that, the better.”
Right now, no one in the country is doing that as well as Burke, and if no one figures out a way to stop him, the Wolverines might be playing in April this season.