Thanks to the B1G’s decision to move their conference tournament up in order to play at Madison Square Garden, late February became the de facto start of March. That didn’t faze the Michigan Wolverines.
Despite the schedule change, March Michigan arrived early at the Mecca, looking as dominant there as the 2017 Wolverines did in D.C. following a scary airplane incident before the tournament even began.
Beyond an initial overtime scare against Iowa to open up this tournament run, Michigan performed masterfully over the course of four games in four days; the final two of which came against two teams considered to be Final Four contenders in regular season B1G champs Michigan State and Purdue.
Against the Spartans and Boilermakers, Michigan’s depth and familiar style under head coach John Beilein allowed the Wolverines to surpass their perceived conference superiors. The John Beilein staples – timely perimeter shooting and stellar play from role players such as Jon Teske and Zavier Simpson – were the X-Factors in two wins that completely changed the narrative around this year’s Wolverines team.
By the end of the weekend, Teske was dominating Isaac Haas on Michigan’s way to a second consecutive conference tournament crown.
HAVE YOURSELF A DAY JON TESKE !!!!! pic.twitter.com/skUPCXD5ag
— Michigan Sports Zone (@MichSportsZone) March 4, 2018
If this storyline feels all too familiar, it is because it is a carbon copy of a blueprint for success Beilein has executed to perfection time after time in Ann Arbor.
Year after year, Michigan enters the season with a deep roster of non-elite NBA prospects. Come to the end of February, those same players suddenly are unstoppable as a collective and become household names.
With the success at MSG, Beilein and the Wolverines now boast back to back conference championships along with sustained March Madness success that includes a Final Four and a national championship game run.
If you have watched the majority of NCAA tournaments since 2010, you have been witness to the Michigan blueprint and its magic.
Back to back Big Ten Tourney titles. Three trips to the Sweet 16 or beyond in the last five years. John Beilein continues to be the most underrated coach in college basketball. Period.
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) March 4, 2018
With their convincing MSG wins over the Spartans and Boilermakers, the Wolverines are suddenly the media darlings of the early March period. Partly because of the early B1G proceedings and partly because of their recent successes, the national media is now in love with the prospects of another deep March run for the Wolverines.
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) March 5, 2018
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) March 5, 2018
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) March 5, 2018
The thought process for proclaiming the Wolverines as *the* March Madness dark horse is valid.
Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Spike Albrecht, Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas and co. were not much different than the makeup of this current Wolverines team. Michigan may be short on lottery picks, but the presence of Moe Wagner and a roster heavy on experience will have Michigan prepared for yet another run at destiny.
Now, with the success of a conference tournament run behind them, the Wolverines will wait and prepare for the dance.
The rest might prove to be a concern. However, for a masterful head coach in Beilein, it can be assured the Wolverines coaching staff will do everything in their power to make the two-week layoff an advantage.
Rested and red hot, the sky is currently the limit for the Michigan Wolverines and their newest crop of unsung heroes. The spirits of McGary, Burke, and Albrecht have transitioned into the magic of Wagner, Abdur-Rahkman, Teske, and Robinson.
March is Michigan’s month and the college basketball world eagerly awaits yet another act from the tournament’s biggest entertainers of the decade. Enjoyers of Final Four trips, conference tournament triumphs and everything in between, all that is left for Beilein’s boys is the holy grail. This group appears ready for the task and it is an exciting prospect as we inch closer to Selection Sunday.