After only 11 games, Juwan Howard and the Michigan Wolverines have exceeded any reasonable pre-season expectations. After handily beating three consecutive ranked teams, the “they haven’t played anyone” narrative has just about run its course. Of course, there will still be stumbles down the road as we are early in the season. However, Michigan has been historically good for the past few weeks. Let’s take a statistical look at just how dominant the Wolverines have been and what that could mean come tournament time.
Michigan entered the season ranked at No. 25 in the AP Poll and unranked in the Coaches Poll. Before the Wisconsin game on Tuesday, the Wolverines have jumped all the way up to No. 7 in the AP and No. 5 in the coaches. With a win at No. 25 Minnesota on Saturday, Michigan would almost assuredly jump up even higher. Could this propel them to 1-seed territory?
Torvik has Michigan slotted in at No. 3 behind only Baylor and Gonzaga, both powerhouses in their own right. Michigan sports top-10 nationwide rankings in adjusted offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage, 2-point percentage, as well as defensive 2-point percentage and free throw rate. No other team in the country is in the top 10 of all 5 of these categories. Even Michigan’s perceived statistical weaknesses, offensive free throw rate (259th nationally), and defensive turnover percentage (327th), can be explained by looking at the game state. With so few close games, the Wolverines have not been going to the line late in games or being particularly aggressive in the last 4 minutes.
Torvik also assigns game scores to every college basketball game. Michigan’s victory over Wisconsin graded out at a 99.8 out of 100, good for the best-played conference game so far this season amongst all conferences. Only Wisconsin’s beatdown of Louisville in mid-December rated higher amongst games with Big Ten teams participating. Statistically speaking, Michigan’s victory Tuesday was the best-played game since their 73-46 beatdown at Villanova in November of 2018. I think it’s safe to say Tuesday was a fun time.
Both Jerry Palm of CBS and Joe Lunardi of ESPN have Michigan as a 2-seed, however, neither have updated their bracketology since Tuesday’s victory. Both list Gonzaga, Baylor, Texas, and Villanova as their 1-seeds. I would expect one, if not both, to bump Michigan up to the 1 line in favor of Villanova, who hasn’t played a game since before Christmas due to the pandemic.
At the very least, this Michigan team has proven that it can compete on the national stage and should be considered a championship contender. Have I mentioned that the #1 recruiting class is coming to Michigan next year? Let the good times roll in Ann Arbor.