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Juwan Howard continues to build a special culture in Ann Arbor

Wolverines making history during unbeaten start
Credit the team culture for Michigan's hot start
Posted at 1:38 PM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 15:27:26-05

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Not only is the Michigan men's basketball team unbeaten at 11-0, they're making history while doing so.

With Tuesday night's 77-54 win over No. 9 Wisconsin, the Wolverines became the first team in the history of college basketball to beat three consecutive ranked opponents by 19 points or more.

"I hope our team doesn't get too high on that," laughed Juwan Howard after the game.

The win over Wisconsin showed the entire country how dangerous the Wolverines can be as Big Ten play continues and March quickly approaches.

"We know it's still early," Howard added, "we're not here to break any records, our goal is to be the last team standing on a Monday night in April."

Juwan Howard after the win over Wisconsin
Wisconsin coach Greg Gard, right, talks to Michigan coach Juwan Howard after an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

There was a lot of talk about Michigan having a slip up against Wisconsin after back-to-back victories over ranked opponents, Isaiah Livers says the team wanted to prove they're taking it a game at a time.

"It will definitely boost your confidence," Livers said, "but the biggest thing is you don't get complacent, a lot of people had questions about us getting complacent after those two wins but tonight was to show who Michigan basketball is."

And Livers saying this is his favorite team so far isn't by accident. Second year head coach Juwan Howard is truly building a culture at his alma mater, one where fun and family is at the forefront.

"I remember a time when I was playing college ball and that was one of the key things that Coach Fisher always said to us, 'Compete out there, play hard, but have fun and enjoy it,'" Howard recalled, "that's what I want my guys to do."

The 'family-first' cultures can become a cliche in college athletics and players will always mention how unselfish their team is, but Michigan has proven it all on the floor.

"It's fun, man, I love these young guys," Livers smiled after the Wisconsin win, "I love the future that Michigan basketball has, I'm just blessed to be a part. of it."

Michigan basketball beats Wisconsin by 23
Michigan guard Chaundee Brown (15) reacts next to Wisconsin forwards Aleem Ford, left, and Micah Potter after a dunk during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The Wolverines typically rely upon an eight-man rotation in most games but the bench is sulking over playing time. In fact, they've become a key factor for the team's success this season and watching the games, any spectator can see why.

"It's a brotherhood," Livers added, "everybody enjoys each others success. They're not worried about their playing time or next year, everyone is focused on now. I think this is why this team works so much, everybody is unselfish and wants to make that extra pass."

The bench reaction to their teammates success is as real as it gets, a true indication of the unselfish nature of the team and their ability to place team success over self.

"It's how it's supposed to be," said sophomore guard, Franz Wagner, "in this type of year where we don't have fans, I think it's very important that we have that energy from the bench. It hypes me up a lot and gives me that confidence when I'm out there."

The 23 point victory over Wisconsin was the Wolverines biggest over an AP top ten team since 1987.

"It's still early in the season, but I give all the credit to the fellas, the players and staff," Howard said.

And Michigan basketball isn't going away any time soon. Howard and the Wolverines have the top recruiting class in the country for the 2021 class, led by two five-star big men and Grand Rapids Christian senior guard, Kobe Bufkin.

Of course, the Big Ten is the deepest basketball conference this year in college basketball but the Wolverines seem destined for a deep run, not only in conference play but when March Madness rolls around.