This year’s NCAA college basketball season has a pretty obvious top tier. Since the first round of rankings came out in early November, No. 1 Gonzaga (22-0) and No. 2 Baylor (18-0) have occupied the top spots in the nation.
From the jump, these two teams solidified themselves as the cream of the crop in college basketball. Both undefeated on the year, the Bulldogs and Bears have essentially decimated every team in their path. With a combined record of 40-0, these top squads have defeated all but four opponents by double-digit margins.
For weeks, these have been the two teams to watch out for. ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas believes another team has entered the conversation as a top-tier squad.
“Michigan is every-bit as good as Gonzaga and Baylor,” Bilas said, on Thursday edition of Get Up. “We’ve separated those two from the field, but Michigan should be on that side of that line. The Wolverines are that good. They have size. They have length and athleticism on the wings. And they are unbelievably stable at the point guard position, which was the biggest question mark coming in. Michigan defends very well.”
Currently at No. 3 in the nation, the Michigan Wolverines didn’t exactly have the same immediate hype as their top-3 counterparts.
After earning a preseason No. 25 ranking, the Wolverines quickly dropped out of the polls following a narrow overtime victory against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies in Week 1. From there, Juwan Howard’s squad was forced to crawl it’s way back into national relevance.
Behind some outstanding play from the front court, Michigan started to endear itself to the top-25 voters.
7-foot-1 freshman center Hunter Dickinson has been unstoppable, averaging a team-high 15 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. The senior leadership of forward Isaiah Livers has also been key — averaging 14.4 points and 5.9 rebounds of his own.
Michigan reclaimed its top-25 ranking in Week 4, then a top-10 ranking in Week 7, then a top-5 ranking in Week 10. The Wolverines have now held their No. 3 ranking for three weeks after claiming it in Week 12.
With just one loss on the season, the nearly-flawless squad is just one step off the perfection that Gonzaga and Baylor have achieved so far this season. Michigan’s only loss came in a 75-57 blowout loss to No. 23 Minnesota in early January.
After the UK variant of the COVID-19 virus swept through the Ann Arbor campus, all of Michigan’s athletic programs were forced to go on a 14-day hiatus in late January. Many analysts were skeptical if the Wolverines would be able to return at full strength after the missed time.
Since their return on February 14, Michigan has gone 3-0 — including wins over No. 21 Wisconsin and No. 4 Ohio State.
Michigan will take on No. 9 Iowa in yet another marquee Big Ten matchup at 7:00 p.m. E.T. tonight.