Michigan basketball could be a trendy Final Four pick next week when fans fill out their brackets.
John Beilein’s team won’t be the favorite to cut down the nets or have the easiest path to San Antonio. But ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas explained why the Wolverines could be one of the last teams standing: They’re capable of beating anyone.
“There are a number of teams that are capable of beating Michigan,” Bilas said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters. “But there are very few teams, if any, that Michigan is not capable of beating. That’s gotta be a good feeling going into the tournament.”
Michigan, which moved up to No. 7 in the AP poll, has proved how good it can be over the last month.
The Wolverines will enter the big dance as one of the nation’s hottest teams, even with nearly two weeks off. Michigan is heading to the NCAA Tournament on an 9-game winning streak and half of those victories came in a tournament setting as the Wolverines won their second straight Big Ten Tournament. Three of the wins during the streak have come against teams ranked in the top 10 at the time (Ohio State, Michigan State and Purdue).
Michigan’s defense is the biggest reason the Wolverines will be tough to beat in the tournament. The Wolverines entered Tuesday ranked ninth in the country in scoring defense, holding teams to just 63.5 points per game.
“Michigan is a way better defensive team than they’ve been in a long time, and one reason is they rebound. They don’t offensive rebound, but they defensive rebound. They limit you to one shot,” Bilas added. “They’re very capable defensively. They’re a little more athletic than they’ve been, they do a good job of staying in front of the ball. They don’t have to help quite as much as they have in the past. They have good size. ..They make you take a more difficult shot than you’d normally take, and that’s the sign of a good defense.”
Michigan will find out its NCAA Tournament seed and first-round opponent Sunday night. The Wolverines were projected as a No. 3 seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology on ESPN.