Hunter Dickinson: Michigan Believes It Will Win NCAA Tournament Despite OSU Loss

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2021

Michigan center Hunter Dickinson plays against Illinois in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya/Associated Press

Despite a disappointing end to their 2021 Big Ten tournament, the Michigan Wolverines are supremely confident in their ability to win a national championship.

After falling to Ohio State by a 68-67 score in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament Saturday, Michigan center Hunter Dickinson said the following, per Daniel Dash of the Michigan Daily"I'd be lying if not every single player in that locker room fully believes that we are the best team in the country and that we will win the national championship. The confidence starts with Coach [Juwan] Howard."

Michigan entered Saturday's game as the No. 4 team in the country with a 20-3 record, and it will now look to regroup ahead of the NCAA tournament bracket reveal on Selection Sunday.

Michigan staged a furious comeback Saturday, as it trailed by eight with 1:55 to go. The Wolverines scored seven unanswered points, but Mike Smith missed what would have been a game-winning shot with two seconds remaining.

The Wolverines clearly aren't playing their best basketball currently, as they have lost three of their past five games after starting the year 18-1, but the talent level on Howard's team is undeniable.

Dickinson is the team leader in points per game (13.9), rebounds per game (7.6) and blocks per game (1.4) this season, but it is far from a one-man show.

Guard Franz Wagner is averaging 13.0 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest, Smith is putting up 9.1 points, 5.5 assists and 2.7 boards per game, and Eli Brooks is averaging 9.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.8 dimes.

Perhaps the biggest concern for the Wolverines entering March Madness—even more so than their recent form—is the status of forward Isaiah Livers.

Michigan announced Saturday that Livers will miss an indefinite amount of time because of a stress injury in his right foot.

Livers ranks second on the team in scoring (13.1 points per game) and third in rebounding (6.0 per game), meaning his absence will be significant if it stretches into the NCAA tournament.

Even without Livers, Michigan still has one of the better starting lineups in college basketball with Dickinson, Wagner, Smith, Brooks and Chaundee Brown, but only two other players on the roster—Brandon Johns Jr. and Austin Davis—average at least 10 minutes per game.

Unless and until Livers returns to the lineup, the Wolverines will be playing short-handed the rest of the way.