Now we are getting to the part of the 2020-21 college basketball season where we find out how good Michigan actually is.
The Wolverines are 7-0 (2-0 Big Ten) but have yet to play an established opponent this season. They opened their nonconference schedule with five matchups versus schools outside Power Five conferences. Then they faced two of the worst teams in the Big Ten.
But Michigan’s matchup at defending conference co-champion Maryland on Thursday will provide the first indication of where the Wolverines stack up within the loaded conference. Maryland is coming off a 70-64 upset win at No. 6 Wisconsin on Monday.
Oddsmakers see this matchup being a toss-up with Michigan and Maryland both opening as a pick’em at -110. The total opened at 142.5.
When Michigan visits Maryland, it will be a homecoming of sorts for Wolverines freshmen Hunter Dickinson and Terrance Williams. Both were four-star recruits from the Maryland area but neither was heavily recruited by the Terrapins.
Williams’ case is perhaps the most perplexing. He was on the same high school team as Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon’s son, meaning Turgeon saw nearly all of Williams’ games. But for whatever reason, Maryland was never serious in pursuing Williams, who was ranked as a top 100 recruit.
”I just feel like Maryland didn’t take me serious enough throughout my entire high school career,” Williams said on Tuesday during a Zoom media session with reporters. “(There) was an offer, but then after that there was no contact, so I really just was turned off by that, and I didn’t want to go to Maryland.”
Maryland also missed out on the 7-foot-1 Dickinson, who would have made an immediate impact in the Terrapins’ frontcourt this season. Maryland lost Jalen Smith to the NBA and now lacks size in a starting frontcourt that does not have a player over 6-10.
And Dickinson has thrived for Michigan. He leads the Big Ten in field goal percentage (69%) and averages 15.3 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Dickinson has also proven to be one of the best rim protectors in the league, averaging the fifth-most blocks (1.7).
”Yeah, I did feel a little disrespected when I wasn’t recruited by them,” Dickinson told reporters regarding the Terrapins. “But I’m really glad with where I am right now. I’m 100 percent saying this is the spot for me. I’m happy to be here at Michigan.”
At 2-0, Michigan is the last remaining unbeaten team in Big Ten play. Sure, Penn State and Nebraska, the teams Michigan has beaten, aren’t a murderer’s row of opponents in one of the nation’s top conferences. But the Wolverines' odds to win the conference have drastically shifted since the preseason.
Michigan entered the season with the sixth-best odds to win the Big Ten at +1100, but the Wolverines are now ranked third by DraftKings to finish first in the conference at +470. Only Wisconsin (+330) and Illinois (+430) are ahead of Michigan.
Michigan State, one of the preseason favorites to win the Big Ten at +360, has fallen to +850 after its 0-3 start in league play.