'I'm not gonna let anyone ruin it for them': Juwan Howard not open to sharing B1G title with Illinois
Juwan Howard has no interest in sharing Michigan’s B1G title with Illinois. The second-year head coach made that pretty clear in his postgame press conference after the Wolverines dropped a 70-64 decision to Michigan State to end the year Sunday.
With the loss, Michigan dropped to 14-3, missing three games that couldn’t be rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Illinois, which finished the season 16-4 and defeated the Wolverines 76-53 in Ann Arbor last week, lost just one more game, but played all 20.
The B1G made the decision to anoint a champion based on winning percentage in conference play, but Illinois head coach Brad Underwood thought there needed to be an amendment following his team’s win over Ohio State on Saturday.
“I know we won 16 games and we played all 20 of them,” Underwood said, per Jeremy Werner of Illini Inquirer. “We all knew this would be a unique situation with an unbalanced schedule…but I know this, no one’s won more games than us, and we played them all.”
Howard was asked about that comment after Michigan’s loss on Sunday. And despite Michigan playing fewer games than Illinois and losing the head-to-head matchup, the head coach doesn’t believe the Wolverines need to share their crown.
“I don’t get into that stuff, man,” Howard said, per 247Sports. “You’re not gonna get any sound-bytes from me or any bulletin board shit, I don’t care about any of that stuff. I just care that we’re Big Ten champs and I’m so proud of our guys for working their butts off since June and grinding.
“All the unknowns, being able to pivot and sacrifice what their college life is supposed to be like. But still manage to have a season and then be stars in their own role. That’s amazing what our student-athletes were able to endure and overcome and then at the same time accomplish something special, that’s the Big Ten title. So I’m not gonna let anyone — I repeat, anyone — try to ruin it for them. They earned it.”
With the B1G already announcing how it will anoint a champion for the regular season, it seems unlikely that the league would reverse course, especially this late in the year. But it will go down as one of the most disputed B1G titles in recent memory.
Michigan earned the top spot in the B1G Tournament this week and will have a double-bye. Illinois also will sit and wait to play until Friday as the No. 2 seed.
Maybe we’ll see the two teams meet in the championship game on Sunday, and we’ll really get some fireworks in March.