Michigan is playing in the NCAA Tournament for the 28th time in program history after winning the Big Ten Tournament title last week and earning the conference’s automatic bid. The Wolverines (28-7) will open tourney play as the No. 3 seed in the West, and will meet Montana (26-7), champions of the Big Sky Conference, in a first-round matchup Thursday in Wichita, Kan.
The NCAA officially announced the tournament field Sunday night.
Michigan carries a 28-7 record and 9-game winning streak into the tournament, which starts with First Four games Tuesday and Wednesday in Dayton. First-round games begin Thursday at various sites across the country.
Michigan reached the Sweet 16 for the third time in five seasons last year when it entered the tournament as a No. 7 seed playing in Indianapolis. It beat No. 10 Oklahoma State, 92-91, in the first round, then knocked off No. 2 Louisville, 73-69, behind 26 points from forward Moe Wagner. The Wolverines fell to No. 3 seed Oregon, 69-68, in the regional semifinals. The Ducks went on to win the regional final against Kansas and advance to the Final Four.
The Wolverines are playing in the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time under coach John Beilein. Only once in those appearances have they failed to win at least one game, including two trips to the Elite Eight (2013, 2014) and one Final Four (2013).
The only national title in program history came in 1989, and no Big Ten team has won the national championship since Michigan State in 2000. Michigan was lost to Louisville in the 2013 National Championship Game. The Cardinals since have been forced to vacate that title.
The Wolverines have become a hot name among Final Four contenders this year. Some analysts are picking them to win it all after they won four games in four days to capture the Big Ten Tournament. The Wolverines were seeded No. 5 and needed overtime to beat Iowa, 77-71, in the second round. They had no such struggles in No. 4 beating Nebraska (77-58), No. 1 Michigan State (75-64) and No. 3 Purdue in succession.
The Wolverines topped the Boilermakers, 75-66, in the final to win their second consecutive league championship.
Three Michigan players are averaging double figures in scoring: Wagner (14.5 points per game), sophomore guard Charles Matthews (12.6) and senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (12.6). Abdur-Rahkman is second in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (5.04), while sophomore point guard Zavier Simpson is No. 26 nationally with a ratio of 2.76. As a team, Michigan is sixth nationally with a 1.76 ratio. The Wolverines don’t hurt themselves with turnovers.
It’s Michigan’s defense, however, that has been the catalyst of the team’s success. It is allowing just 63.5 points per game, the best average of any team from the Big Ten and No. 9 nationally. The Wolverines are No. 5 in the KenPom.com defensive efficiency ratings, giving up 92.9 points per 100 possessions.