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a new arrival arrives in the saga of Hunter Dickinson, and Willard jokes about rivalry

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Whether it’s a coincidence or an effort to keep him from delving into his Maryland angst again, the Michigan star Hunter Dickinson was not made available to the media ahead of the Wolverines’ visit to the Xfinity Center tonight. Believe it or not, it will be the first time that the former DeMatha (Md.) star, who often discusses her grudge against the former Terps coach Mark Turgeon for not recruiting enough, will play for fans on Xfinity (7 pm, ESPN).

When he was a freshman, he scored 26 points and 11 rebounds in a Michigan win there, taunting Turgeon during and after the game. But there were no fans there because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“I hope I showed that the guys on the way [DeMatha] are very good, and they should go there sometime [to recruit],” Dickinson said afterwards. “I wish we had fans… I could have gotten a warm welcome from the Maryland fans.”

Last year, Michigan did not play Maryland. So it’s not until now that the seven-foot, 260-pound All-American will get a chance to hear pleasantries from Maryland fans. This should make for an interesting dynamic, as Dickinson has never been one to keep his thoughts to himself. He said earlier this season that he doesn’t hold a grudge against Maryland now that Turgeon is gone and that he likes the freshman coach. Kevin Willard.

But you wouldn’t know how excited he was during his 32-point, 12-rebound performance in Maryland’s 35-point loss of Michigan (11-6 overall, 2-4 Big Ten) on New Year’s Day.

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“He has a chip on his shoulder, playing Maryland. I tried to remind him of the last game in the second half, I silently pulled him away and said, ‘I just got here. I’ve only been here eight months.’ you know, take [easy]. You don’t want to yell at me, man. You know, it wasn’t my fault,” Willard joked this week on his radio show.

“That’s what I told the team, like, why is he yelling at me? I wasn’t here.”

But Willard didn’t seem to take it personally.

“I think that’s what you need to have if you want to be an elite player … I think every great player has an advantage. And I like that,” he said. “But he’s a really, really good player. I love the chip on his shoulder. To be great you have to have that attitude. And you have to give credit where credit is due, he’s a great player.”

Dickinson is averaging 17.8 points and 8.9 rebounds on 57.2 percent shooting to lead the Wolverines (10-6 overall, 4-2 Big Ten). Guard jett howard, the son of Michigan coach Juwan Howard, is averaging 15.5 points and shooting 40.2 percent on three. Willard called it “a top 10 pick”. Guard Kobe Bukfin is the other double-digit scorer with 12.6 points per game. They have the kind of lengths that gave Maryland trouble during their recent six-game losing streak against power conference opponents.

“You look at Michigan and you have jett howard, which is a legitimate 6-8, 220 in the wig. Buffkin is 6-6, 6-5 and we’re only 6-2,” Willard said.

He was referring to the shipowner Jahmir Young (15.2 PPG, 4.9 RPG), which has led the Terps lately, averaging 21 points over the last three games and 17.4 over the last nine against power conference teams.

“Jahmir, I think, has been as good as any point guard in the league. But he’s been facing guys that are a little bit bigger than him. So I think that length took some time to adjust, for guys that hadn’t played against that. ” said Willard.

downtown maryland julian reese has shown more assertiveness of late, but continues to struggle with problems, which again surfaced in Sunday’s 81-67 loss in Iowa. Dickinson dominated him earlier this month. It will be tough for Maryland to win if that happens again, especially with the backup center. Patrick Emilien sidelined with an ankle injury.

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“Unfortunately, we’re not the biggest team or the deepest team,” Willard said. “Right now, physically, we’re getting a bit of a beating, especially on the road.”

Michigan has been a streaky team. During the eight games leading up to last weekend’s win over Northwestern, they won two, lost two, won two, and lost two. So that trend would suggest a second consecutive victory today in Maryland, as well as that victory in Ann Arbor. But Maryland is 8-1 at home and favored by three points. With a trip to No. 3 Purdue coming up this weekend, Willard’s team, No. 10 in the Big Ten standings, can’t afford to lose at home.

But with four of the next five games at home, Willard is still confident.

“We’re still in great shape. We’ve got a bunch of wins in quadrant one, we’ve got a bunch of wins in quadrant two. Our [NET ranking] it’s very good, our Kenpom is very good … What I said to this team is that we are still in great shape, we are still projected to be in the NCAA Tournament, only, you have to understand what’s what of each time, your schedule dictates how you play,” he said.

“We’ve played the toughest conference schedule of any power five team, we’ve been on the road more than any power five team. And we’re still in the mix. So, like, you know, take a deep breath.”

He hopes the crowd will help.

“In this conference, I think that’s what makes it unique is that you have to have a big home advantage,” he said. “Because you’re going to get tripped up on the road.”