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With their tongues out, laughing in the face of their opponents, Michigan just put the nation on watch: How the Wolverines became the nation’s hottest team

Michigan, Basketball
Isaiah Hole / 247Sports

This 2017-2018 Michigan team is unlike any other John Beilein lead team before it.

They’re playing with a ton of emotion while playing elite defense.

After ripping off five Big Ten wins to cap off the regular season, the Maize and Blue looked primed heading into the Big Ten Tournament.

They were.

While in the tournament, Michigan’s closest game was their first, a 77-71 overtime win over Iowa. While shooting only 16 percent from 3, the Wolverines were able to pull the game out. This may have been a death note to former Michigan teams, but not this one. Their defense is great enough to keep them into games when almost no shots are falling.

Their quarterfinal matchup was with Nebraska, who handed Michigan a 20-point loss in the regular season. Lead by Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Moe Wagner’s combined 41 points, the Cornhuskers fell victim to the hottest team in the nation, only scoring 58 points.

In Michigan’s semifinal game against Michigan State is when their swagger was most apparent. Watch Charles Matthews laugh in the face of Ward:

This game more than any was a testament to Michigan’s defense. MSU averages 81 points per game, but the Wolverines held them to only 64 points. Michigan State forward Nick Ward had only 6 points, and Izzo could only afford to play him for 10 minutes. While part of his benching could be tied to him picking up a technical, which shows moreover Michigan’s swagger was getting under their skin, the most likely scenario was that Ward was bringing almost nothing to the Spartans offense. This is a credit to Wagner

Playing Purdue for the third time this year was a tad scary, but Michigan made great strides as a team since their last loss against the Boilermakers. The biggest improvement was containing everyone not named Isaac Haas. Head Coach John Beilein wanted to play Purdue center Isaac Haas straight up, as opposed to doubling him and letting their shooters knock down threes. The Boilermakers average even more points per game than the Michigan State Spartans, at 81.1 PPG, and Michigan held them to only 66 points.

It seems that almost all the questions that people had for this team at the beginning of the year have been answered:

What is going to happen with the point guard situation?
Zavier Simpson has turned into an extremely good point guard. He doesn’t turn the ball over, has great vision, and he consistently locks up opposing guards. See Cassius Winston (3-10) in the B1G Tournament semis, and Carsen Edwards (4-16) in the B1G Tournament finals. Jaaron Simmons has seemed to cement himself as the back up point guard, as we haven’t seen Eli Brooks in a while.

How will Charles Matthews fit in?

Great. Fans may give him a hard time for some bone-headed turnovers and bad offensive performances, but he has been a great on the boards and defensively. Matthews’ athleticism brings so much to this team. For all the people calling for Jordan Poole to get all of Matthews’ minutes, really watch him on the defensive end – no shade to Jordan Poole, the kid is a walking bucket.

Who will step up for Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin, and DJ Wilson?

The answer is everybody. Zavier Simpson has improved, Charles Matthews plugged in, Moe Wagner took the star role, Isaiah Livers broke into the starting lineup, MAAR has turned it up, Jordan Poole found his role on the team, Jon Teske has become a legitimate center, and Duncan Robinson has found his home as a sixth man.

This Michigan team has been on fire as of late, and they seem to be peaking at the perfect time. With a great well-rounded team, the Wolverines will be looking to make a deep run in the NCAA Tourney.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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