They didn’t show it for the first 79 minutes and 57 seconds of this NCAA Tournament, but this year’s Michigan basketball team can be pure, unstoppable adrenaline when they’re at their best. And oh my god, that’s what the Wolverines were tonight in their 99-72 win over Texas A&M.
After surviving what was mostly a pair of truly hard-to-watch slogs in the opening rounds (punctuated by an instantly legendary game-winning shot), the Wolverines did a total 180 in their Sweet 16 match-up against the Aggies, destroying and humiliating their SEC foes by ending the game before halftime even hit. In those opening 20 minutes, seven different players made ten of their 16 threes, while Michigan also forced 10 turnovers and held the Aggies to just 12-of-32 from the field. The score was 52-28 at the break, and the rest of the game was just a formality.
A&M didn’t do themselves any favors by playing some godawful lazy defense, but wow, Michigan looked incredible. On offense, they attacked without hesitation while making all the right passes. And on defense, despite being physically overmatched down low, they played a smart, lockdown game as usual. Moe Wagner came alive after two anonymous games and scored 21 points, senior leader Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman found his shooting stroke for the first time since the Big Ten Championship, and Zavier Simpson shut down yet another high-usage point guard in TJ Starks, who shot 2-of-11 after claiming he was “unguardable” on Wednesday.
The “real” Michigan, of course, is somewhere between this Hulked-out powerhouse and the ice-cold squad that willed itself past Houston and Montana. But with a maximum of three games remaining, keeping this hot streak alive is a conceivable goal for the Wolverines. At the very least, even when its shooting is not at its best, Michigan has proven that it knows how to play smart, winning basketball. And in a weird, chaotic left side of the bracket, the Wolverines have also staked their claim as the scariest team around.