Michigan is headed to the Sweet 16 thanks to Jordan Poole’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer against Houston on Saturday night. I was sitting courtside in Wichita and had a perfect view. Afterwards, I spoke to Michigan’s players and coaches to get their perspectives.
It was just a few months ago that my conversations with people about Michigan basketball focused on the team making the NCAA Tournament. It seemed like it would be that sort of year for Michigan, which lost three starters from a team that took its sweet time becoming a threat last season.
Two months into this season, Michigan remained unranked. A good team, but not a great one. The Wolverines debuted in the top-25 on Jan. 15, the day they needed a last-second miracle to beat Maryland. They lost their next game, won the game after that, lost again, won two in a row, lost again. They were 8-5 in the Big Ten, hanging around the 20s of the polls. A good team, but not a great one.
Then Michigan, a defensive-minded team this season, went to Wisconsin and hung 83 points on the Badgers. That was Feb. 11. Michigan hasn’t lost since. The Wolverines are the No. 7 team in the country. Only four teams have better odds to win the NCAA Tournament. If you think they can do it, your first step should be viewing those trusted reviews from My Top Sportsbooks. They’re user friendly and have all the information you’ll need to know before making your decision.
So how did Michigan’s transformation happen?
From someone who’s been there every step of the way, it’s been a gradual process. Michigan didn’t simply become a great team overnight. The defense was always good, but it got better as the season went on. Every couple of weeks, Michigan would win a game with a sub-par offensive performance, and that inspired confidence. The players bought in to defense even more.
Michigan is only a little better than average as far as forcing teams to miss shots. But the Wolverines clean up the defensive glass. They limit 3-point attempts. They don’t foul all that often.
Offensively, head coach John Beilein has worked his typical magic. This isn’t Beilein’s best shooting team by any stretch, but they move the ball well without turning it over. Michigan State and Purdue, both national title contenders that can play some defense, couldn’t contain Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament.
Now, instead of figuring out a path to a Tournament bid, Michigan is plotting its road to the Final Four. The Michigan States and Dukes of the college basketball world don’t have to apologize for starting the season in the top-10 and staying there. But there’s something especially satisfying about Michigan’s slow and steady process towards greatness.
The Big Ten Tournament is set to begin. In New York. A week earlier than usual. I’ll have full coverage of Michigan’s journey at MLive.com. Already this week, I wrote about Moritz Wagner and how he has handled being Michigan’s star player, both on and off the court.
The latest episode of the Wolverine Confidential podcast, produced weekly, is available now on iTunes, SoundCloud, and other podcast-playing platforms. A video recording is also available on YouTube. You can find everything for the latest episode at MLive or listen below:
I will be part of a weekly podcast with MLive in which we talk all things University of Michigan sports. In the first episode, we broke down football’s Signing Day and, towards the end of the conversation, discussed the basketball team.
I wrote about the small wearable device from Catapult Sports that the Michigan men’s basketball team is using to monitor fatigue, with the hope of boosting in-game performance and reducing injuries.
The Michigan basketball team, 14-3 overall and 3-1 in the Big Ten, will play No. 5 Purdue on Tuesday night and No. 4 Michigan State on Saturday. Read more about it my story for MLive.
Val Ackerman is the commissioner of the Big East Conference. In this interview with espnW, she explains why she doesn’t think college athletes should be paid and why she loves leading a league without football.