Why You Were Meant to Root for Michigan

The Michigan bench congratulates head coach Juwan Howard, front right, after winning the Big Ten title against Michigan State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Welcome to Ann Arbor, where the Michigan Wolverines are sharpening their claws for another deep NCAA tournament run.


Michigan's Tourney History

The Wolverines are no strangers to March Madness. Although Glen Rice led them to their last national championship in 1989, they have since made four trips to the Final Four.

Villanova dashed Michigan's dreams of glory in the 2018 national title game, and the school reached the Sweet 16 in both 2017 and 2019. However, this marks the first NCAA tournament foray for head coach Juwan Howard. During his playing days, he took the Wolverines to the championship clash twice as part of the famed Fab Five.


This Year's Best Players

Paul Sancya/Associated Press

Michigan's rotation relies heavily on seniors, most notably forward Isaiah Livers. Yet freshman center Hunter Dickinson anchors this squad on both ends. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year gives the Wolverines both a bright future and a real shot at running the table this March.

There's plenty of size alongside the 7'1" Dickinson. Franz Wagner has blossomed into a lockdown defender and prolific scorer in his second year. The 6'9" guard and Berlin native could fortify his status as a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft with a strong tournament showing. 

Both Dickinson and Wagner will need to rise to the moment, as Livers suffered a foot injury during the Big Ten tournament.


Why They're Going to Win

Michigan began the season a blistering 18-1 before losing to Illinois and Michigan State. Before those setbacks, it returned from a three-week COVID-related hiatus to handle business against Big Ten foes Ohio State and Iowa.

They're not always the most aesthetically pleasing team, but the Wolverines are ruthlessly effective on offense and defense. They also have the perfect blend of experience and star power to reverse the program's past Final Four misfortunes.