The Michigan Wolverines, fresh off an NCAA Title Game appearance, came into this season ranked #7. Although the Wolverines had lost arguably their top two players to an early entry into the NBA, the expectations were high again for the youngest B1G team.
Mitch McGary, a preseason All-American, was hurt with a back injury that kept him out of the first two games. His first action of the season was on the road against a very good Iowa State team. He was obviously not the same player he was during his amazing run in the NCAA tournament. He was sluggish, and could often be seen doubling over. The consensus was that he would be back up to speed soon. The Wolverines would lose in Ames on that night.
Mitch McGary would go on to play in only 8 games during the season, opting for surgery to fix his back after the Arizona game. The Wolverines had a 6-4 record with 3 more losses to Charlotte, #10 Duke, and #1 Arizona. The early expectations were all but gone at that point, seeing the Wolverines out of the top 25.
The B1G Conference would almost give the Wolverines a fresh start, however. Big contributions from Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford, in Mitch McGary’s absence, would help surge the Wolverines to a six game winning streak and a 12-4 record going into a very tough stretch for the conference season. A road game at #3 Wisconsin, home against #10 Iowa, and again on the road against then #3 Michigan State Spartans looked to be a daunting task. The Wolverines had never beating three top 10 teams in a row, much less two of them on the road against the Badgers and Spartans. It would happen this season after winning in Madison for the first time since 1999 and going on to best the Hawkeyes and then the Spartans in East Lansing.
The Wolverines would start B1G conference play with an 8-0 record, improving the season to a 16-4 overall record. Ranked #10, the Wolverines laid their first conference dud, playing sluggish in Bloomington and losing to the Hoosiers, 63-52.
Michigan would go on to lose at Iowa, and home against the surging Wisconsin Badgers. During that same stretch, however, they would also win a tight match-up against arch-rival Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus.
Despite being ahead of the Spartans in the conference standings, Michigan would take on the Spartans for a second time, this time in Ann Arbor, and be ranked behind the Spartans. Michigan would go on to sweep the Spartans, 79-70. Michigan has now won three in a row against the Spartans, and six out of the last 8 in the series. Starting with that game, Michigan would finish the regular season on a five game winning streak, besting Indiana at Crisler to end it.
Michigan would also be crowned out-right B1G Champions after beating Illinois in Champaign.
Nik Stauskas would go back-to-back for B1G POTY for Michigan.
For the first time since its inception, Michigan was the #1 Seed in the B1G Tournament. The Wolverines first contest would be against Illinois, a team they had just drubbed by 31 points a week earlier. But the Illini were hungry, maybe even wanted revenge, and took the Wolverines down to the last second. Michigan would prevail, and face arch-rival Ohio State for a chance at the Championship game.
The Wolverines would lead almost the entire game, and at times by double digits. The Buckeyes hung tough, and took the lead late. But Michigan would once again prevail, setting up the third match against the Michigan State Spartans for the Tournament Title. The Wolverines would sputter, and lose for the first time in the last 4 against the Spartans.
Michigan received the number 2 seed in the Midwest Region. They will take on Wofford in their first game. A few teams of note could be a tough matchup against #7 Texas. Also, Kentucky and Louisville get some low seeds. Louisville was considered a 2 seed, but falls to a 4 seed. Duke is the 3 seed.
This looks like the toughest bracket of them all.