Many from outside the Big Ten are looking at the conference as the “Three-Headed Monster,” with Michigan State, Purdue and Maryland.
Michigan coach John Beilein isn’t so sure.
“I think there’s more parity right now, I do believe that,” Beilein said during his weekly radio show with Matt Shepard. “I do believe there’s probably five, six teams that are really good at the top, and some teams that are probably sleeping right now.
“It’s a long season, and, you know, I think a lot of teams are like us — they’re developing talent in January and February.
“They’re trying to make people better. I’m looking forward to our guys getting better.”
Michigan (10-3) kicks off Big Ten play this afternoon against Illinois.
Three of its next five games are against powers Purdue and Maryland, and Iowa, a good team that was trying to knock No. 1 Michigan State from the ranks of the undefeated on Tuesday night.
The Wolverines closed nonconference play with four consecutive wins, after a drubbing at SMU.
“I think we’re OK. We’ll find out more in the next couple days, next couple weeks really,” Beilein said. “We’ve got some challenging games.
“I don’t know who we are yet, because it’s the Big Ten season. I knew who we were against the Youngstown States and the Bryants. We’re pretty good. Now let’s see who we are against the other guys, how we measure up against the really good guys.”
MSU, Purdue and Maryland are considered the class of the conference, but Iowa, Indiana, Northwestern and Michigan — and Ohio State, which did beat Kentucky — could make some noise, too.
The Wolverines have their issues to sort out in Big Ten play, namely defense and rebounding, but they can sure shoot, making a program-record 17 3-pointers in their nonconference finale.
Michigan has no fewer than five or six serious threats from long range, and hot shooting nights can mask other issues, like, say, rebounding and defense.
“We’re gonna shoot it when we’re open,” Beilein said. “Take what people give us.”
Beilein said forward D.J. Wilson (right ankle) is completely healthy, which could be a big boost to the big-man issues plaguing the Wolverines.
“I expect him to help us at Illinois,” Beilein said. “He’s had a couple really good days of practice.”
... Michigan players got three days off around the holiday, and Beilein told them to refresh their minds and bodies, but stay out of the gym. He doubts all of them listened.
“I told Duncan Robinson not to shoot,” he said. “I bet he shot.”
... Beilein isn’t pleased with every aspect of his team’s game, but he’s thrilled with all the assists his team is piling up, including 26 and 29 in the last two games.
“Obviously, we didn’t play Big Ten-type of talent in these last three games,” Beilein said. “But at the same time, you’ve gotta make shots and make the right play to get 25 assists.”
Michigan at Illinois
Tip-off: 3 p.m. today, State Farm Center, Champaign, Ill.
Records: Michigan 10-3; Illinois 8-5
Outlook: The Wolverines will have to keep an eye on Jalen Coleman-Lands, who is the Illini’s version of Duncan Robinson — making 42 percent of his 3-pointers. ... Illinois leads the series, 55-26, at home. ... Interestingly, both teams average 33.3 rebounds.