In a state where the pro sports teams are terrible and the major college programs have underachieved, the Michigan Wolverines basketball squad is the lone beacon of hope for Michigan sports fans.
The Lions, Tigers and Pistons are years away from any sort of serious championship run, and Michigan and Michigan State football do not appear closer to competing in the Big Ten or national title picture as long as Ohio State remains a juggernaut.
But on the court, the No. 7 Wolverines have become legitimate contenders nationally and in the conference. If there was any doubt lingering about their potential, it was erased in Tuesday’s dominant 77-54 win over No. 9 Wisconsin (10-3, 4-2 Big Ten).
“I’m very happy with the effort the guys brought,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said after the game. “I’m also happy to see that they’re playing hard. I give them a lot of credit; it’s all about the players. But there’s room for improvement, and we will go back and watch film and see how we can get better.”
Michigan (11-0, 6-0 Big Ten) made history with its impressive showing, becoming the first team in college basketball to beat three straight ranked opponents by 19 points or more. The Wolverines topped No. 19 Northwestern 85-66 on Jan. 3 before beating No. 23 Minnesota on Jan. 6, 82-57.
Oddsmakers have taken notice of the Wolverines’ success, too. Michigan now sits as the favorite to win the Big Ten at +300, leading Wisconsin (+335), Iowa (+400), Illinois (+450) and Michigan State (+1000).
The Wolverines are now tied with the fourth-best odds to win it all at +900, trailing Gonzaga (+350), Villanova (+700), Baylor (+800) and tied with Creighton.
Michigan’s current standings in the futures market is a sharp contrast to the preseason odds from the sportsbooks. The Wolverines were +1100 to win the Big Ten and were +4000 to win the national title.
Backing the Wolverines has been a profitable endeavor for sports bettors. Michigan is 9-2 against the spread this season, tied with Baylor for the third-best mark in college basketball. Only Drake (11-0) and Toledo (12-2) have better records against the spread this season.
Ironically, one of Toledo’s losses versus the spread came against Michigan on Dec. 9. The Wolverines covered -14.5 with a 91-71 victory.
Michigan’s offensive versatility has led to it becoming one of the most efficient units in the country. Franz Wagner, Mike Smith, Eli Brooks and Isiah Livers can all shoot from 3 as well as create their own shot, while the 7-foot Hunter Dickinson has developed into one of the premier post threats in the country.
Against Wisconsin, Michigan’s starting quartet on the perimeter combined to shoot 7 of 12 from 3-point range as Dickinson added an efficient 12 points on 5 of 10 shooting. As a team, the Wolverines shot 56% from 3 (9-16) and were 52% overall (32-62).
It was the latest exhibition of Michigan’s efficient offense. Against Minnesota, the Wolverines made 57% of its shots (33-58), and they managed to convert 50% against Northwestern (32-64) while also shooting 12 of 27 from 3 (44%).
In the KenPom advanced analytics, Michigan has the sixth most efficient offense, trailing only Gonzaga, Iowa, Villanova, Baylor and LSU.
Michigan will aim to continue its winning ways when it visits Minnesota in a rematch on Saturday.