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Daniel Wilco | NCAA.com | March 31, 2018

Why Michigan is a true contender to win the national title

Michigan's road to the Final Four

If Michigan is going to win its second national title ever, it’ll do it with its defense.

According to KenPom rankings, the Wolverines have the best defense left in the tournament, one that allows just 63.1 points per game with an adjusted defensive efficiency of 90.8.

Team AdjD (rank) PPG (rank) PPG allowed (rank) Margin (rank)
Michigan 90.8 (4) 74.1 (166) 63.1 (8) 11 (17)
Villanova 94.4 (14) 86.6 (1) 70.2 (113) 16.4 (2)
Loyola 95.1 (19) 72 (224) 62.4 (5) 9.6 (27)
Kansas 96.9 (40) 81.4 (29) 71.3 (150) 10.2 (24)

Currently, Michigan is riding a 13-game winning streak into its matchup with Loyola — a streak second only to… Loyola’s current 14-game run.

During that streak, the Wolverines have allowed an average of 62.5 points, and held all opponents to fewer than 73 points.

Since 1985, the average Final Four winner has held its opponent to 67 points per game, while scoring 77.

Michigan and Loyola are the only two of the Final Four that hold their opponents to fewer than 70 points per game, but if you take strength of schedule into account, the Wolverines’ number gets much more impressive.

Team PPG allowed Strength of schedule
Michigan 63.1 55
Loyola 62.4 127

That defense has led to Michigan winning 20 of its games by double digits, and eight by 20 or more points, the most recent of which came in the form of a 27-point win over Texas A&M (which had just beat defending champs UNC by 21) in the Sweet 16.

But the Wolverines excel in tight matchups as well.

Michigan is 6-3 in close games (ones that either went to overtime, or were decided by no more than two possessions) this season. Two of those three losses came to teams ranked in the top 5 of the AP poll at the time.

The most memorable of all of the close wins is still a fresh memory, thanks to Jordan Poole’s buzzer-beating three to down Houston 64-63 in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Michigan hits buzzer beater to move past Houston
The Wolverines are a long way from a championship lock — they still have to take on Loyola and Sister Jean on Easter weekend to even get to the title game — but if defense truly wins championships, Michigan will soon be hanging its first banner since 1989.

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