College Basketball Road Trip: Michigan — The most interesting team in the world
The Fox Sports College Basketball Road Trip rolled into Champaign on Tuesday evening just in time for Illinois vs. Michigan, the final home game of the season for the Illini. The visiting Wolverines are in first place and need a win to earn the outright Big Ten regular-season championship, their first since 1986. Illinois is seeking its fourth consecutive victory for a little momentum entering the conference tournament.
A crowd of 16,618 fans were in the State Farm Center, and if my calculations are correct, 16,618 of those fans knew the ballgame was over before the first TV timeout. It was one of those nights, folks, one where fans should’ve just stayed home and watched "Glee " instead. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit we drove seven hours to get there. (That stays between us.)
Michigan jumped all over the Illini right out of the gate with a bucket on its first possession and never looked back, coasting to a 84-53 victory with no lead changes and only one tie, a 2-2 score in the opening minute. The Wolverines shot 68 percent from the field in the first half and closed the game at 57 percent, with a vicious 16-for-23 pace from deep. No team in the country is going to lose many games with a hot hand like that, especially not when a trophy is on the line.
With the lack of excitement on the court directly in front of me, I spent some time doing other things, like wondering where Illinois head coach John Groce found his orange jacket, laughing at my co-writer, Matt, getting scolded for taking a photo with his iPhone (a big no-no without a photo pass) and browsing through the Michigan media guide. It was then that I realized the Michigan Wolverines are the most interesting group of basketball players in the world. Seemingly every guy on the roster is related to someone famous or has some fascinating fact from his past. It’s like John Beilein’s entire recruiting strategy was to go after the kids who can tell the best stories on road trips to pass the time.
Just take a look at some of them…
Glenn Robinson III
Robinson, a sophomore captain for the Wolverines, is the son of former NCAA great Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson Jr., the 1994 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year and a two-time NBA All-Star.
The elder Robinson played two seasons at Purdue University, where he became the only Boilermaker to have more than 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 100 steals, 100 assists and 50 blocks in a career.
Robinson III isn’t the only NBA legacy on Michigan’s 2013-14 roster, redshirt junior Jon Horford also has pro basketball in his genes. He is the brother of Atlanta Hawks star Al Horford, and his father Tito played three seasons in the league with the Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Bullets.
Horford is known to carry a hacky-sack with him at all times and he cooks a mean soup, according to his official bio.
Though his dad never played in the NBA, Andrew Dakich is the son of Dan Dakich, a former player, assistant coach and interim head coach at Indiana University. Dan Dakich currently calls college basketball games for ESPN. In fact, he was the color commentator for Tuesday’s night game in Champaign.
Furthermore, the Michigan media guide calls Andrew Dakich the best golfer on the team. So there’s that, too.
The 5-foot-11 Albrecht exploded onto the scene last season when he scored 17 of Michigan’s first 33 points in the national championship game against eventual champ Louisville. Averaging 1.6 points per game as a freshman at the time, Albrecht hit his first four three-point attempts in the game and was trending worldwide on Twitter.
After the loss, he sent a tweet to supermodel Kate Upton, a Michigan fan, to thank her for attending the game. “Hope to see you again,” he added, with a smiley face.
Stauskas’ 7-for-9 night from beyond the arc against Illinois came as no surprise to those who have seen his YouTube videos. Nicknamed “Tube” for his homemade highlight tapes on his homemade basketball court, Stauskas set Michigan’s 3-point record for freshmen a season ago with 80 made treys.
Watch him hit 46 in a row in one of those videos:
Anlauf, a sophomore forward, traded in his Adidas Michigan football cleats for Adidas Michigan basketball shoes after a successful walk-on tryout with the team. He redshirted for Brady Hoke and the Wolverines football program as a walk-on wide receiver prior to switching sports this season.
Finally, the most bizarre of the Michigan player connections and absurd facts, sophomore guard Levert is the third cousin of Eddie LeVert, the lead vocalist of the soul/R&B group, the O’Jays.
That explains why he was signing “Love Train” on the bench after Michigan stretched its lead out to 33 points late in the second half.
See what I’m saying?
And let’s not forget Tim Hardaway Jr., the son of NBA legend Tim Hardaway, on last year’s roster, and Austin Hatch, a Wolverine signee who has survived two plane crashes that claimed the lives of five family members. (What a tragic story, by the way.)
So what we learned tonight, after a seven-hour haul across all of Ohio and Indiana, is that Michigan’s entire roster has a story to tell or a relative that played in the league, or one who influenced disco. That’s why we’re calling the Michigan Wolverines college basketball’s Most Interesting Team In The World.
And they’re pretty good at basketball, too.
Ask Illinois if you don’t believe me.