Big Ten Mailbag: Is Michigan basketball for real?

Big Ten Mailbag: Is Michigan basketball for real?

It’s time for me to reach into my mail bag to answer your pressing questions. Basketball is on your mind. And that’s understandable, as we are in the heart of the season as I type this. So, let’s begin.

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Do you think that Michigan is for real? I really love watching the Wolverines play. – J.R. Rinehart

Michigan is fun to watch, isn’t it? Making the success even more delicious is the fact no one expected this type of excellence from the Wolverines after they lost Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. And Mitch McGary has played in just eight games because of a back injury, not playing since December 14 in a loss to Arizona. The Wolverines are 8-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1976-77, leading the Big Ten.

No Derrick Walton, Jr., for newcomer?? I know you want to stray away from repeating yourself and lauding the same teams, but come on. The Michigan point guard is good. – BMOHR

No doubt, Walton would have been a fine choice. The freshman has come in and done a great job taking over for the irreplaceable Trey Burke. Walton is averaging 8.6 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists for the Big Ten’s lone unbeaten team in league play. But many other newcomers have done as well or better. Guys like Indiana’s Noah Vonleh, Nebraska’s Terran Petteway, Illinois’ Rayvonte Rice and Minnesota’s DeAndre Mathieu come to mind.

Who will win the next meeting between Michigan and Michigan State in Ann Arbor? – Ben Lown

That game is on Sunday, Feb. 23. And, it could be a de facto Big Ten championship game. By then, MSU should have Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson back from injuries. Their inside presence will be key. And if Mitch McGary is back for Michigan, it will make this clash even tastier. This will be a very motivated Spartans team, as it seeks revenge after losing at home to the Wolverines, 80-75.

What’s with Ohio State right now?! Losing to Minnesota? (Don’t get me wrong. I love the Gophers). And also losing to Nebraska and Penn State! – JD

The Buckeyes have several issues. Chief among them is a lack of attention on defense. That’s odd, seeing as how defense has been a big point of excellence for the Buckeyes under Thad Matta. Another issue has been inconsistent outside shooting. And there really is no go-to man with Deshaun Thomas gone. I also think leadership is iffy. Does losing REALLY hurt? It’s not too late to get things turned around, but time is running out. OSU is in peril of missing the NCAA tourney.

No way is Michigan State’s Tom Izzo the best coach in the B1G. You must admit that what John Beilein has done to the Michigan program is bordering on miraculous with what he has done there. – Chris

Look, you could make a great case for both Izzo and Beilein. I just think Izzo has had to navigate through more with the injuries to Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson. And Keith Appling has been ailing with a bad wrist, while Gary Harris also hasn’t been 100 percent for much of the time because of an ankle issue. Want more? Matt Costello has dealt with mono. Still, Izzo has pushed the Spartans to big heights while also playing the toughest schedule in the Big Ten. But, again, a great case can be made for Beilein, as Michigan hasn’t skipped a beat after going to the national title game last year.

Ohio State assistant football coach Tom Herman was stuck in Atlanta traffic for some 19 hours and ended up abandoning his rental car and walking to the airport. Right move to ditch the car, I think. How many hours could you sit in traffic? – Jonathan

Oh, man. This gives me an entirely new perspective on a traffic jam! No way could I have lasted as long as Herman did! I would have bailed after about six hours—especially if my rental car was a Cavalier, Sonata or Corsica.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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