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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Wolverines playing well behind Howard

by Wally Hall | February 19, 2021 at 2:47 a.m.

Several years ago, your trusty scribe attempted to predict the NCAA Tournament field.

For a few years it ran the morning of Selection Sunday.

It was not my strong suit, and the best record was 47 out of 64.

That year, either Joe Lunardi of ESPN.com or Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com was 64 of 64. Whichever one it wasn't hit 63 of 64.

My NCAA Tournament crystal ball was retired.

Right now, Lunardi has Arkansas penciled in as a No. 7 seed facing Oregon, but he has an ascending arrow by the Razorbacks meaning they could move up with the right wins.

Palm has the Razorbacks as a No. 7 facing Colorado.

They both have the SEC getting six teams in including Alabama, Tennessee, LSU, Missouri and Florida, along with the Hogs.

Of course both have Gongaza and Baylor as a No. 1 seed.

Those teams have been the talk of the country in a season when Duke and Kentucky probably won't be bringing their dance routines to March Madness.

Palm has North Carolina as a first four out, and Lunardi has the Tar Heels as a No. 11, which might be hard for them to understand since they didn't know there were that many seeds in the tournament.

Both round out the No. 1s with Ohio State and Michigan. Not only does that make the Big Ten the dominant conference this season, but it proves a bunch of skeptics completely wrong.

Darrell Walker has been one of the exceptions in the world of college basketball where former NBA players were successful on the college level as head coaches.

When Michigan announced it was hiring Juwan Howard probably the most asked question was, 'Why?'

Howard was a great college and NBA player.

From 1994-2013, he played for eight teams and won two NBA championships.

His only college experience was as one of Michigan's Fab Five, the best recruiting class in college history to not win a championship, although they made the finals as freshmen and sophomores.

In the 1993 final, Michigan trailed North Carolina 73-71 when Chris Webber, the most talented of the Fab Five, called a timeout with 11 seconds to play.

Only the Wolverines were out of timeouts. The technical foul was called and Dean Smith and the Tar Heels became the winners.

That was 1993, and now Howard is the team's most valuable player as he has led the Wolverines to a 14-1 overall and 9-1 Big 10 record.,

This is his second season, Michigan was 19-12 and 10-10 last season. Howard's previous coaching experience was as an assistant for the Miami Heat.

The Wolverines' only loss this season was an upset at Minnesota.

They are No. 3 in every poll including the NCAA NET.

They are atop the standings of the Big Ten which appears will get eight teams into March Madness.

They were never more impressive than last weekend when they returned from a three-week layoff because of various covid-19 concerns.

Michigan went on the road to No. 21 Wisconsin and flew home a 67-59 winner.

Michigan has long been known as a football powerhouse, or was, depending on how you view head coach Jim Harbaugh who is 49-22 and has yet to beat Ohio State in his six seasons as head coach,

The Wolverines are not a slouch in basketball with more than 1,600 career wins and six Final Four appearances, including winning the 1989 national championship with interim coach Steve Fisher, who was promoted, and two years later recruited Howard and the rest of the Fab Five.

The Wolverines made the championship game in 2018, were beaten by Villanova and then-coach John Beilein jumped to the NBA.

Michigan officials turned to the NBA and one of their own. Right now it looks like one of the greatest hires ever.

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