ANN ARBOR, Mich. — On the heels of a season in which Moritz Wagner, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Duncan Robinson, and company came within 40 minutes of a national championship, the Michigan Wolverines were supposed to take a step back. The presence of one of the best coaches in college basketball in John Beilein can’t be overstated but, as a general rule, most did not expect Michigan to replicate their lightning-in-a-bottle run from March and April of 2018. However, the Wolverines have been lights-out in the early going, compiling a 12-0 record that features wins over Villanova, North Carolina, and Purdue in dominant fashion.
The prevailing narrative during Michigan’s scalding start has been the impressive baseline established by Beilein from a program-building perspective. Since devoting a position on his staff to a “defensive coordinator” of sorts, Beilein has overseen elite units on that end of the floor and, when matched with the always-efficient offenses he’s known for building, the Wolverines are terrifying for the opposition. This season, the defense has once again been stout, ranking fourth in KenPom in adjusted defensive efficiency, while the offense has been a Beilein offense, especially when Michigan plays top-20 squads.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this success may be that Michigan is a rare national title contender that does not boast a projected lottery pick on its roster. It is, after all, true that the Wolverines aren’t exclusively built with five-star prospects and sure-fire professionals. With that said, the 2018-19 team does bring pro-level talent to the table, including two players with legitimate chances to garner first round consideration when the NBA Draft arrives in June and another, Jordan Poole, with the tools necessary to make an impact for 2020.
It should be noted that neither Charles Matthews nor Ignas Brazdeikis are likely, by any stretch of the imagination, to crash the lottery party this summer. In fact, Wagner was likely a better professional prospect than either top-tier player from this year’s Michigan squad and, when all was said and done, the talented big man fell to the mid-20’s with a soft landing spot in Los Angeles. Still, any notion that this Michigan squad is not led by professional talent is overstated.