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Simulating the outcome of a playoff between the 2013, 2018 Michigan Basketball teams

We put 2013 up against 2018 and this is what happened.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - West Regional - Anaheim Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines made it to the national title game twice under head coach John Beilein, but both times were unable to win that final game of the season. That has led to a debate for the last few years among fans as to which team they would take in a matchup between the two squads.

And really, the only common thread that they have between each other is that they were both coached by Beilein. The 2013 team had the most efficient offense in the country, while 2018 had one of the nation’s top five defenses. It really does wind up being an interesting juxtaposition.

With the benefit of computers, data and simulations, we took to The NCAA Game Simulator to set up a seven-game playoff series between both of the teams. For the purposes of the exercise, we will refer to the Trey Burke-led 2013 team as “Team Burke” and the Moritz Wagner-led 2018 squad as “Team Wagner.”

Without further ado, let’s get into it.

Game 1: Team Wagner 80, Team Burke 73

This one was pretty handily in favor of the 2018 team, but the 2013 squad was able to get the deficit down to four points with less than a minute to go. Jordan Poole and Zavier Simpson hit free throws down the stretch to seal the victory for the 2018 Wolverines, who were led by 17 points and 11 rebounds from Wagner. Burke led the way for 2013 with 18 points and five assists, while Glenn Robinson II had 17 points and six rebounds.

2018 leads series 1-0

Game 2: Team Burke 86, Team Wagner 70

Burke (28 points, 7 assists) and Nik Stauskas (19 points 5-for-6 from three) came out of the locker room in Game 2 looking to make a statement, and boy did they ever. Hardaway also had 15 points, six assists and five rebounds in the win, while the 2018 squad was led by 22 points and nine rebounds from Wagner.

Series tied at 1-1

Game 3: Team Wagner 83, Team Burke 76

Team 2018 swung right back in the third game of this series with a balanced attack from Wagner (16 points), Charles Matthews (15 points) and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (13 points). Burke had 20 points and five assists, while Hardaway and Stauskas both had 12 points each.

2018 leads series 2-1

Game 4: Team Burke 93, Team Wagner 57

The 2013 squad rolled in the fourth game of the series, led by 23 points from Stauskas and 18 points and five assists from Trey Burke. Wagner was the only 2018’er with double figures, scoring 13 points in the loss.

Series tied 2-2

Game 5: Team Burke 73, Team Wagner 70

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but a three-pointer from Burke (21 points) in the final moments helped propel the 2013 squad to a victory. Stauskas chipped in with 17 points, while 2018 was led by Abdur-Rahkman in a 26-point effort.

2013 leads series 3-2

Game 6: Team Wagner 80, Team Burke 75

Facing elimination, the 2018 team rode a balanced showing to a victory with four of the five starters scoring in double figures, led by Wagner’s 16 points. Burke had 20 points and seven assists in the loss that forced a deciding game seven.

Series tied 3-3

Game 7: Team Wagner 63, Team Burke 62

The deciding game of this series was taken by the 2018 squad, who had to win ugly to get it done. Burke (22 points, seven assists) did everything in his power to do it himself, but the 2018 team was able to grind out the victory and the series win here. Abdur-Rahkman, Matthews and Wagner led the way with 14, 13 and 11 points, respectively.


I ran the simulation 100 times, which slightly favored the 2013 team.

NCAA Game Sim

Despite this, the 2018 squad takes the home the fake title in our simulated seven-game series. However, I do believe the 2013 team was slightly better because the data largely shows that in order to win a national title, guard play and offensive firepower is what pushes you over the top. Given the two title game performances, this probably lends credence to the fact that the 2013 squad was the better of the two, but 2018 had maybe the best defense we have seen from the program. It’s hard to say and truly is a coin flip, which the simulation seems to point to, as well.

Which team would you take in a seven-game series? Sound off below!


Who wins a seven-game series?

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    2013 Michigan
    (253 votes)
  • 10%
    2018 Michigan
    (31 votes)
284 votes total Vote Now