ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The Michigan basketball team dominated No. 6 North Carolina and No. 8 Gonzaga on back-to-back days to win the Battle 4 Atlantis, which was the toughest early-season tournament in the country this season.
Michigan’s run began Wednesday against a solid Iowa State team. Michigan fell behind 16-7 before storming back and taking a 41-37 lead into halftime. After the break, it was all Michigan, as the Wolverines went up 52-39 and never looked back. Iowa State pulled within eight points a couple of times and even got within six in the final minute, but the Wolverines were always in control.
Thursday was perhaps the most impressive performance, as Michigan knocked North Carolina from the ranks of the unbeaten. On the one-year anniversary of Michigan’s 84-67 beatdown of the Tar Heels in Ann Arbor, Juwan Howard’s team built a 24-point second half lead and coasted to the finish line, settling for a 73-64 victory.
Gonzaga stood in Michigan’s way for the tournament title, but the third game looked eerily similar to the first two. Michigan took an 11-point lead into the half, steadily built the lead to 19 points with 11 minutes to play and never looked back. The Wolverines beat the previously undefeated Bulldogs, 82-64.
To recap, Michigan beat Iowa State, North Carolina and Gonzaga -- three likely NCAA Tournament teams and two top 10 opponents -- by a combined 34 points.
In addition to No. 6 North Carolina and No. 8 Gonzaga, the Battle 4 Atlantis included No. 11 Oregon and No. 13 Seton Hall. Michigan, Iowa State, Alabama and Southern Miss came into the tournament unranked.
Michigan will likely jump all the way into the top 10 of the AP poll next week. The Wolverines have the strongest resume in the country -- 7-0 with two top 10 wins and four wins over major conference opponents, with Creighton being the fourth.
Isaiah Livers was a consistent offensive force for Michigan in the Bahamas, scoring 17, 12 and 21 points across three games. Zavier Simpson finished the tournament with 30 points, 32 assists and 15 rebounds. Jon Teske chipped in 40 points and 29 rebounds.
Michigan got a huge lift from Eli Brooks when Simpson battled foul trouble against North Carolina. Simpson played just 17 minutes, but Brooks made nine of 14 shots for a team-leading 24 points.
David DeJulius was also excellent in the back court for Michigan, scoring 34 points in three games.
Colin Castleton scored 10 points against Iowa State when Teske battled foul trouble.
Franz Wagner, brother of former Michigan star Moritz Wagner, made his Michigan debut after fracturing his wrist in the offseason. He shook off some of the rust, scoring 19 points and contributing 12 rebounds, four assists and four steals. He made seven of 19 shot attempts and committed 11 fouls and five turnovers, but it was obvious why Michigan considers him a difference-maker.
Brandon Johns Jr. grabbed eight rebounds and blocked two shots off the bench during the tournament. Austin Davis and Adrien Nunez both scored against Iowa State. Freshman Cole Bajema got a bucket at the end of the Gonzaga victory.
If the past two seasons are any indication, this is a very significant accomplishment for the Wolverines. Each of the last two Battle 4 Atlantis winners have gone on to win the national championship -- Villanova in 2018 and Virginia in 2019.
Michigan will face its toughest test so far next week, as it hits the road to take on Louisville in the B1G-ACC Challenge. The Cardinals are likely to be the No. 1 team in the country by then.