When John Beilein left Michigan for the Cleveland Cavaliers, faced with the departure of a number of the team's top scorers, it wasn't surprising when the Preseason AP Poll, or even the first several ballots of the regular season, left the Wolverines out of the top 25.
Yet, after winning the Battle of Atlantis, which included two top-10 wins over UNC and Gonzaga, it's apparent that the Associated Press (as well as most prognosticators) got this one wrong. First-year coach Juwan Howard has brought both swagger and accountability to this program, and in turn, he's been rewarded with one of the best starts to the season in program history.
For some teams, this makes up an entire tournament resume come season's end. Yet somehow, a Michigan team which hasn't even started their Big Ten slate already has four key wins, with potentially one more to come as they face Louisville this Tuesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Cardinals remain a tough test, but maintain a level of play Michigan will be used to after Atlantis, despite Louisville's No. 2 ranking.
Michigan deserved to be ranked heading into the well-acclaimed preseason tournament, but the AP voters overlooked them, especially considering their (at the time) daunting upcoming schedule. But this consistent offensive unit led by Isaiah Livers and Zavier Simpson is not stopped easily, as the Wolverines have yet to be held under 70 points in a game this season.
It's a long season, and surely too early to call Michigan anything more than Big Ten contenders. But if you thought there'd be a learning curve in Howard's first stint as a collegiate head coach, we've got bad news for you.