Michigan has just finished a season in which it was a victory to win the national title, had the defense ranked 3rd in college basketball and sent two of its players to the NBA.
And yet, to the general surprise of almost everyone, it seems increasingly likely that Michigan 2018-1919 will be even better than last season's team. It seems crazy to think. Then you watch Michigan play. So it's easy to believe.
What John Beilein has built is not a year's business. Michigan is now in the third year of a curve wave that is still gaining speed and validity. From this single month, we first saw Michigan beat the reigning national champion, Villanova, by 27 points. Forward, and Michigan has continued to establish itself as a defensive and opportunist elite that is fatally offensive. And Wednesday night, the Wolverines were at the edge of the table, reaching 7-0 with a win of 84-67 over the 11th North Carolina (6-2).
To convince would be a euphemism for this victory. It was a 17-point win that looked like almost 40.
Here is a newsletter: The University of Michigan has triumphed over the two coaches and programs responsible for winning at the last three national championships. At this point, despite its ranking No. 7, Michigan has the same quality as anyone else in college basketball. Yes, it means Gonzaga, Kansas and Duke. The pair of U of M wins over Nova and UNC, and the style in which they came, match any other team in the country's top two games against ranked teams.
And if the Wolverines had started the season higher than 19th place in the preparatory rankings, it would probably be ranked among the top four with all the above-mentioned schools. Give him another two weeks, the best, and the Beilein team can be snuggled against the Zags, Jayhawks and Blue Devils – provided they beat Purdue at home and the Northwest on the road.
After a season of football full of promise, Michigan fans should be reassured to know that the basketball team is not designed to let down in the same way as Jim Harbaugh and the helmets. And after the disappointment of the football team's implosion against Ohio State, the basketball team needs to appease some of the pain caused by Michigan's 62-39 defeat on Saturday at the Horseshoe.
Michigan is not only ranked seventh in the country and still undefeated, it has also won every two-digit game and its average victory margin is 21.7. For as dangerous as Michigan has been on the offensive this season and in many of these lately, it's the Wolverines' defense that carries its reputation in December. The assistant Luke Yaklich coordinates a good part of the Michigan team and it improves from month to month.
What a stellar race it is. Once again, the wave continues with this program.
When someone like Beilein can focus more on the attack and leave defensive care to his trusted assistants, a team of this size, talent and skill is all the more dangerous. .
Before Wednesday, North Carolina had accumulated 78 points. Michigan lost 11 points. The Wolverines' 84 points, on the other hand, were tied at the top of the season. What was designed to be one of the most attractive games of the week was heavy, hard and fast for Michigan at the start of the second half.
It's impressive to see this, as the Wolverines no longer have Moe Wagner, Duncan Robinson or Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rakhman. Yet the injection of rookie Iggy Brazdeikis was a revelation. The Canadian striker plays with an abnormal intensity, confidence and spirit for a first-year student of his size and level. He has concretely added something to this unit that pays dividends in a big way.
Michigan ended up shooting 50% (11 to 22) of the 3-point range and 57% of the overall standings. Brazdeikis scored the most points of the match with 24 points. Jordan Poole added 21. Charles Matthews, who is likely to wear the NBA uniform a year from now, added 21. Jordan Poole added 18. Only eight Michigan players have seen the speech. Is it only the beginning?
We have a long way to go, but unless the injury, or something weird, takes over these Wolverines, it's hard to imagine that Michigan is not a national factor all season. It has already been shaped to the point that no one is looking forward to playing against this team.
This is the second 7-0 start for Michigan under Beilein. The only other time this happened was in 2012; this season has ended with Michigan in the national title game. After a great November, it's easy to see how this season could end with the Wolverines still playing in April.