The #2 Michigan Wolverines started the basketball season with a 15-0 record, and aside from their loss to Villanova in the NCAA Championship game last spring, the Wolverines are 29-1 over their last 30 games dating back to February 2018.
The Wolverines are only one win away from tying their best start in school history. Only two blue and gold squads matched that epic feat. The 2012-13 Wolverines were the last team to start the season 16-0, and the 1985-86 Wolverines were the first team to win their first sixteen games of the season. The 2012-13 team advanced to the Final Four, but lost in the national championship game to Louisville.
Almost Same Team
This year’s squad is similar to last year’s magnificent Final Four team, but they are missing three players: Moritz Wagner, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson. Mo Wagner is currently playing in the NBA alongside LeBron James and the Lakers, who drafted Wagner in the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft.
Without Wagner, pundits projected Michigan to be in the back end of the Top 20. The AP preseason poll ranked Michigan at #19. Currently, Michigan is ranked second behind #1 Duke (12-1). Virginia (13-0), ranked fourth, is the only other undefeated team in the Top 15.
Freshman Iggy Brazdeikis, 6-foot-7 swingman from Canada, replaced Wagner as the token foreign player on the roster. Brazdeikis led the Wolverines in scoring six times thus far. He averages 16 points per game and 5.3 rebounds.
Senior Charles Matthews, 6-foot-6 guard from Chicago, is the emotional leader of the team. He averages 14.2 points per game and 5.3 rebounds. Sophomore guard Jordan Poole averages 14.1 points per game, up from 6.0 as a freshman last season.
During Michigan’s auspicious 15-0 start, the Wolverines won 13 games this season by double digits. They won eight games by at least 19 points. Michigan is currently 4-0 in the Big Ten.
In mid-November, Michigan faced an early test at #8 Villanova. Michigan avenged their March Madness loss with a 73-46 drubbing of the Wildcats.
Two weeks later, Michigan moved into the Top 10 for the first time this season. With a shiny-new #7 ranking, they squared off against #11 North Carolina in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The Wolverines took advantage of a home game in Ann Arbor, and easily defeated the Tar Heels 84-67.
Big Ten division action began in December and in the conference opener, Michigan beat #19 Purdue by 22 points. The Wolverines survived a scare against unranked Northwestern in Evanston. The Wolverines emerged unscathed after a nail-biting two-point victory. But that was the closest shave for Michigan all season.
Shortly before the end of the 2018 calendar year, the AP Poll rewarded Michigan with a #2 ranking. Michigan did not disappoint the AP pollsters and promptly spanked #21 Indiana by 21 points to improve to 15-0.
The new two months are filled with 16 games against tough conference foes. Road games in the Big Ten will be a huge test for John Beilein’s squad. The Wolverines face rival Michigan State for the first time on February 24, when they host the Spartans in Ann Arbor. The final game of the season will be Michigan State in East Lansing on March 9.
Don’t Forget About March Madness
John Beilein has been coaching Michigan for 12 seasons and he guided Michigan to the Final Four last season, yet lost in the finals for the second time since 2013. Heading into the title game, Michigan rattled off 13 straight wins. They ran the table in the difficult Big Ten Championship tournament with four wins in four nights by beating Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan State, and Purdue.
Michigan beat the hottest team in the tournament too and picked off the Cinderella team, Loyola-Chicago. The Wolverines defeated #11 Loyola-Chicago in the Final Four before advancing to the championship game against #2 Villanova. During their 2018 March Madness run, Michigan earned wins against Montana, Houston, Texas A&M, and Florida State.
Beilein’s squad can handle the pressures of playing multiple games in consecutive nights during the conference tournament craziness. They can also play on the biggest stage in college basketball and do not wilt under the bright lights of March Madness. The Wolverines have the experience to make another deep run in this year’s March Madness tournament.
Beilein went to the Final Four twice since 2013, but he lost the championship games both times. He’d love another shot at getting back to the finale.
“The third time is a charm, right?” joked Beilein.
According to the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, Duke is the top favorite on the board at 7-4 odds to win the college basketball championship. Michigan is 10-1 odds to win March Madness.