Unranked Michigan arrived in the Bahamas as an afterthought in an eight-team tournament featuring four AP Top 25 teams. Now, the Wolverines are commanding everyone's attention.
Michigan knocked off its second top-10 team in 24 hours Friday, beating No. 8 Gonzaga 82-64 to win the championship of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
"It's gratifying to be able to hold up that trophy and say, you know what? All that sacrifice we put through, all the hard work we put in, it was well worth it,'' Michigan's first-year coach, Juwan Howard, said.
"Well, I'm sure we're on the map now,'' Howard said with a big grin.
Jon Teske scored 19 points with 15 rebounds and four blocks as the tournament's most valuable player for the Wolverines (7-0).
Yet the story was more about the way Michigan won the title than any stats. The Wolverines handled Iowa State in Wednesday's opener, then led No. 6 North Carolina by 24 at one point during Thursday's victory before beating the Zags (8-1) on Friday. And that secured a pair of early marquee wins for Howard, the longtime NBA player and member of Michigan's "Fab Five'' a quarter-century ago.
This one had a similar feeling to the UNC win, too, with Michigan's offense kicking into a hot-shooting gear midway through the second half to take control and build a huge lead.
"We're having fun together,'' Teske said. "We're sharing the ball. We know where we're going to be on the court at all times."
Michigan led just 38-36 when the shots started falling from just about everywhere: a 3-pointer from Zavier Simpson, two drives from freshman Franz Wagner, a 3 from Isaiah Livers and two more from David DeJulius.
It was a burst of 10 consecutive scoring possessions -- with Michigan moving the ball to get good looks on just about every one -- that put the Wolverines up 62-43 midway through the second half.
Gonzaga never got the lead below double figures again.
Killian Tillie scored 20 points for the battered Bulldogs, who dealt with numerous injury concerns over the three-day tournament. Gonzaga just couldn't keep up with the Wolverines and finished the game shooting 40%.
"Every time we made a mental breakdown, they scored,'' Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "They literally made us pay on every one of our assignments that we screwed up -- a switch or we screwed up a coverage. And they made us pay, so they deserve a lot of credit for that.''
Michigan shot 54%, including 12-of-23 from 3-point range. And by the end, there was even the sight of Howard breaking out dance moves for his players as they held a sign proclaiming Michigan the Atlantis champs.
"We work hard as a group,'' Howard said. "Why not have some fun?''
Howard took over for John Beilein and inherited a team that lost its top three scorers to leave uncertainty even with several experienced players returning. But the Wolverines shot 50% or better in every game in the Bahamas, handled two top-10 teams with ease -- and likely secured a debut in next week's AP Top 25 poll.
"We don't really pay attention to all the media stuff,'' Livers said as Howard nodded next to him. "We want to play Michigan basketball and that's all we're going to be focused on.''
If Michigan lands a spot in the AP's top 10, the Wolverines would be the sixth team since the AP poll expanded to 25 teams in 1989-90 to go from unranked one week to the top 10 the next. The previous instance was 2010-11 UConn, which jumped to No. 7 after winning the Maui Invitational. That team went on to win the national championship.
Michigan might join 1989-90 Kansas as the only team to jump from unranked to the top five since the poll expanded.
The top-10 opponents keep coming. On Tuesday, the Wolverines visit No. 2 Louisville in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in what has become a very big game on the national schedule.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.