In 2007, John Beilein took over a Michigan basketball program that hadn't reached the NCAA Tournament since 1998. Boy, does that feel like eons ago.
Since then, the 66-year old from outside Niagara has guided the Wolverines to eight Big Dances, posting an 18-8 record for good measure. Outside of a Round of 64 exit to Ohio in 2012, Beilein and company always notch at least one tournament win.
This time around, the 2-seeded Wolverines get a rematch with the 15-seeded Montana Grizzlies in Des Moines on Thursday (9:20 p.m. EST, TNT). The winner faces either No. 7 Nevada or No. 10 Florida on Saturday.
Let’s take a look at the numbers detailing the Wolverines’ successes during the opening weekends of March Madness.
Opening Weekend Numbers
First things first, the record in the Rounds of 64 and 32 is 11-4.
The raw numbers show Michigan scoring 69.1 points per game while ceding just 62 on average. This means an average margin of victory of seven points over 15 opening weekend games (wow, I can subtract...).
Those matchups came against teams whose seeds averaged out to 8.06. On the higher end, the 2011 team faced No. 1 Duke (73-71 loss), the 2009 team (and Zach Novak) was rudely introduced to Blake Griffin and No. 2 Oklahoma and the 2017 team upset No. 2 Louisville in a rematch of the 2013 National Championship.
The lower end of those matchups were the upset to Ohio in 2012, South Dakota State the next year (71-56 win), No. 15 Wofford in 2014 (57-40 win) and No. 14 Montana last March.
2013 is the first year Ken Pomeroy included box scores in his results. From that point forward, the tempo-free statistics have been stellar.
Through 10 contests, the offense has scored 1.13 points per possession, which if extrapolated for a whole season would be top-25 in the nation. Meanwhile, the defense held opponents to .99 points per possession.
Three-point defense has also been lockdown, as foes have canned just 45-of-164 triples (27 percent). On offense, the 31 percent mark is weighed down by last year’s 13-of-46 showing versus the Grizzlies and Houston.
There’s only one three that counted versus the Cougars, though.
Thinking Michigan may be smarting after its third loss to Michigan State? Think that may make the Wolverines vulnerable to an upset? Their average margin of victory in games against double-digit seeds is just 7.8 points.
That doesn’t include the NCAA record for largest blowout in an 8/9 game, as Michigan thrashed Tennessee by 30 in 2011. Throw that result in, and the margin increases to an average of 11.
With that in mind, expect a rock fight against Montana on Thursday, as Michigan typically does just enough to survive and advance against the lower seeds. Ken Pomeroy gives the Wolverines a 93 percent chance at winning and predicts a 74-57 victory.
As for Nevada and Florida, Beilein typically finds an advantage to ruthlessly exploit after a one-day turnaround (think Moe Wagner switching onto Louisville guards or the ball-control against the VCU Havoc defense in 2013).