Zack Novak's dunk highlights Michigan basketball's first Michigan Madness in over a decade
Zack Novak ran around the court, mobbed by his teammates like he just made a game-winning shot. He ran all the way across the court and then back.
Nah, he just won the four-person Michigan Madness slam dunk contest highlighting the opening of the college basketball season a year after Michigan finished 21-14 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Novak - the self-proclaimed “darkhorse” - won the dunk contest with the two most impressive dunks of the night. He first hit a windmill off a bounce.
Then, in the finals against freshman Darius Morris, he took a bounce and then went a through-the-legs dunk to win on the final dunk. It earned a perfect score.
“I was working on the first one for a while,” Novak said. “The second one came as a fluke. Manny (Harris) did it one day and I was making fun of him, look, hey, I’m Manny and I went up and tried it, thinking I wasn’t going to come close an then almost got it. I practiced it a few times but I didn’t do it all week, I wasn’t even going to do it going in.
“Darius’ dunk was pretty good in the final round, so I had to try it.”
It shocked most of the fans and the players and even Michigan coach John Beilein, who said “I wouldn’t have believed that in a million years.”
Of course, there is a bit of redemption in Novak’s celebration. Last season, Novak missed a dunk at the buzzer against Savannah State that would have won the game in regulation. Michigan won in overtime, but still, it even prompted Beilein to say after the dunk that he’ll allow Novak to dunk in a game this year.
Morris wasn’t sure if Novak would pull it out. He knew Novak could finish the dunk - because he saw him do it once.
“He looked like a pro out there,” said Morris, who admitted after that Novak had the better dunk. “Between the legs dunk, it was great, it was awesome.”
Novak, though, wasn’t even going to do the dunk that won him the contest. Instead, he was going to try something on the fly that he had never tried before.
“The only other idea I had was take a cheerleader’s pompom, dunk it and then reverse and dunk a basketball on the other side,” Novak said.
Michigan’s first midnight madness activity - albeit more like evening excitement with an 8 p.m. start - since 1996 had an announced crowd of almost 3,500 fans. They saw a skills contest, a three-point shootout and the highlight of any one of these events, the dunk contest.
While junior guard Manny Harris didn’t participate in the contest - he instead won the three-point team contest with women’s player Carmen Reynolds when she made a shot at the buzzer - it didn’t lack for highlights.
Harris, though, pulled out of the dunk contest. He did say, though, he felt he had something in his arsenal of dunks that could have won the competition.
“I just said I didn’t want to get in it. They kind of a little bit surprised me, a little bit,” Harris said. “It would have been tough getting in there. They brought some stuff out. Darius, they don’t do that in practice .
“They were hiding it all from me.”
Overall, Beilein and the players felt the night was successful. From Beilein being introduced - and then dancing - to House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around,’ to Blake McLimans’ skills’ challenge team winning on his layup at the end to Harris and Reynolds’ buzzer-beater in the three-point competition it ended up being a good start.
While it wasn’t riding in on motorcycles and a police car, like what Syracuse did, or other antics at Kansas and Michigan State, Beilein said he expects to have the event next year, as well, and is always looking to improve it.
“It’s all about setting precedent. You see Michigan State, see Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, I’ve seen it from past years,” junior forward Anthony Wright said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be to that caliber yet, but you have to start somewhere and tonight we made a very good start.
“We’re getting there. This was a big step.”