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No. 3 Michigan Wolverines men's basketball team finally gets to prove its worth

By NOAH TRISTER

AP Sports Writer

ANN ARBOR — A three-week hiatus did little to diminish Michigan’s impressive resume: The Wolverines are still on top of the Big Ten, and they even moved up four spots in the AP Top 25 poll while idle.

The big question now is how they will look when they return to the court this weekend — and whether coach Juwan Howard’s team can find a groove again after such an unusual layoff.

“We trust as a staff that come Sunday we’ll be ready to play,” Howard said Friday. “I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but from start to finish we’re going to give our best effort.”

Michigan hasn’t played since a Jan. 22 win at Purdue. A day after that, the school announced it was pausing its whole athletic department after positive tests for a new COVID-19 variant that transmits at a higher rate. Since then, the Wolverines have missed five games.

No. 3 Michigan will make its return at No. 21 Wisconsin.

If the Wolverines (13-1, 8-1) play the way they did before the layoff, it will be tough for anyone in the Big Ten to catch them. Michigan has already beaten Minnesota by 25, Wisconsin by 23 and Maryland by 24. But those games were a while ago, and there’s no telling how much this lengthy break affected the Wolverines.

“It’s mainly chemistry,” forward Isaiah Livers said. “Being off for a week and a half, two weeks, not playing together, it’s really going to affect timing.”

While waiting for the Wolverines to return, the Badgers have lost three times, and so has Iowa. Now Illinois and Ohio State have emerged as the two biggest threats to the Wolverines in the title race.