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Michigan basketball has learned, adapted and peaked as a true team at the right time

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Michigan is hot and nobody should be surprised. Does this team have what it takes to win it all?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-West Regional-Texas A&M vs Michigan Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines have won 31 games, are Big Ten Tournament Champions and are now in their third Elite Eight in the last six seasons.

Surprised? If you’ve been a fan Coach Beilein and what he’s about, then you shouldn’t be.

The first two games of the NCAA Tournament were quite possibly some of their worst performances overall since the loss at Northwestern on Feb. 6. That may have been due to the longer break with the conference tournament ending a week earlier, but they found a way to get it done and received some magic by Jordan Poole late Saturday night.

That’s just part of the recipe for success in March, but what’s most surprising is how dominant this defense has become late in the season, and that makes them a dangerous team if their offense has a pulse.

The wins against Ohio State, Michigan State and Purdue in a seven game winning streak at the end of the regular season was an amazing run, and it was our first glimpse of just what this team is about.

I went back to January and looked at how some of their games compared and here’s what I gathered. The fact is that this team last night not only dominated, they were much like the team that played against the best teams in the Big Ten.

The Wolverines final stats from last night:

  • Field goal percentage: 61.9
  • 3-point percentage: 58.3 (14-of-24)
  • Rebounds: 26 (2 offensive/24 defensive)
  • Turnovers: 6 (Texas A&M, 14)
  • Steals: 12 (Texas A&M, 4)

This performance against a hot Texas A&M team coming off a win against North Carolina was the Wolverines of recent. Michigan went to Chapel Hill and lost 86-71 in late November and Texas A&M handled the Tar Heels last Sunday 86-65. The Aggies got so far down and so fast in the first half against U-M, they tried everything they could in the second half.

I’m not sure who made a bigger impression last night, but several guys stepped up big.

  • Zavier Simpson was huge with five rebounds and five assists, but mostly importantly he pressured freshman point guard T.J. Starks and kept him to only five points after having 21 against North Carolina.
  • Charles Matthews was doing whatever he wanted against the Aggies and ended with 18 points.
  • Moritz Wagner set the tone right off the start with six quick points, and ended with 21 points.
  • Five players had at least 10 points, two over 20.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman soared with 24 points, seven assists and five rebounds.
  • There were a total of 23 bench points from five players, including 10 from Duncan Robinson.
  • Michigan was 14-of-24 behind the arc.
  • The defense forced 14 turnovers and 12 steals. Simpson himself had six steals.
  • The walk-on and once student manager, C.J. Baird, hit a late three in the game.

The recipe for a championship team is a solid shooting game, but more importantly, a nasty defense.

The Wolverines are on one of its hottest streaks in recent memory with one of the best defenses in the country, and have matched their all-time season high total of 31 wins. Coach Beilein is at it again in late March with another unbelievable run.

Thanks to Virginia, Xavier, North Carolina, Cincinnati and Tennessee all losing earlier in the tournament, the Wolverines are the highest remaining seed on the left side of the bracket.

They will be playing for a chance to go to their second Final Four in six years when they take on Florida State tomorrow night, and with how this team has peaked at the right time they have as good of a chance as anybody to make it to San Antonio, Texas.