Michigan is the Big Ten’s last remaining hope to end the conference’s nearly 18-year NCAA Tournament title drought.
The Wolverines, who knocked out No. 9 Florida State on Saturday night, head to the Final Four in San Antonio hoping to become the first Big Ten team to win it all since Michigan State in 2000. Michigan will play Loyola (Chicago).
No Big Ten team has cut down the nets since the Spartans’ title. Six Big Ten teams — Indiana in 2002, Illinois in 2005, Ohio State in 2007, Michigan State in 2009, Michigan in 2013, Wisconsin in 2015 — have made the title game in the last 17 seasons, but all have come up short.
The Pac-12 is the only other Power 5 conference to have a longer national title drought in men’s basketball. No Pac-12 team has won it all since Arizona in 1997. Since Michigan State’s title in 2000, the ACC has claimed seven national titles, the Big East has five, the SEC has three and the Big 12 and American Athletic Conference each have one.
Why Michigan can end the Big Ten’s national title drought
Michigan is on a serious roll
Michigan has made it to the Final Four for the second time under John Beilein, and the Wolverines have a special run going on. They haven’t lost since Feb. 6, and their 13-game winning streak features wins over their two biggest rivals, one for the Big Ten Tournament title and another that featured maybe the most-ridiculous shot of March. Good luck slowing them down, Loyola-Chicago.
Their path to the title game is free of big-name opponents
Michigan has one of the easiest paths ever to the title game. Michigan’s first four games came against teams all seeded sixth or higher and the team’s only remaining chance to face a top-5 seed is in the NCAA Tournament Championship Game. Sure, it’s a little lucky for Michigan that teams like North Carolina, Xavier and Gonzaga have slipped up. But the Wolverines have taken care of business against the team in front of them.
John Beilein is tough to beat in March
Michigan has been a tough team to beat in March over the last two seasons, regardless of who their opponent is. Michigan has a combined record of 15-2 in March over the last two seasons as Beilein has got his team to play its best basketball at the right time. If he can steer the Wolverines to two more wins — including one in April — the Big Ten’s NCAA Tournament title drought will be over.