Im­pres­sive wins push Michi­gan to No. 5 in new AP Top 25 poll

Yuma Sun - - SUN SPORTS -

RALEIGH, N.C. — Maybe AP Top 25 vot­ers were a bit too low on Michi­gan to start the sea­son. That isn’t the case any­more.

The Wolver­ines (8-0, 1-0 Big Ten) have made a rapid rise to reach No. 5 in Mon­day’s lat­est poll be­hind Gon­zaga, Kansas, Duke and Vir­ginia af­ter their lat­est im­pres­sive wins. They’ve beaten every op­po­nent by at least 17 points, with three of those com­ing against ranked teams.

The Wolver­ines are off to their best start since win­ning the first 16 games of the 201213 sea­son, a year that saw them play in the NCAA Tour­na­ment fi­nal. That’s also the last time the Wolver­ines had cracked the top 5 be­fore Mon­day.

The suc­cess has come amid the pro­gram’s shift to a more de­fen­sive fo­cus. Michi­gan ranks first in the coun­try in KenPom’s ad­justed de­fen­sive ef­fi­ciency, al­low­ing an av­er­age of 86.8 points per 100 pos­ses­sions.

“They’re learn­ing that some­times you’re not go­ing to make a foul shot, you’re go­ing to turn it over, you’re go­ing to have a tough ref’s call,” Michi­gan coach John Beilein said af­ter Satur­day’s home win against Pur­due. “Your de­fense can be the one con­stant, as long as we keep em­brac­ing that, we can keep hav­ing suc­cess.”

Michi­gan started the year at No. 19 but quickly leaped into the top 10 af­ter beat­ing reign­ing NCAA cham­pion Vil­lanova by 27 on the road on Nov. 14 in a re­match of last year’s fi­nal.

Last week, Michi­gan was sev­enth be­fore beat­ing two more ranked op­po­nents at home: North Carolina by 17 in the ACC/Big Ten Chal­lenge, then Pur­due by 19 in its league opener.

They also rank among the most ef­fi­cient of­fenses in the coun­try, while they’ve proven adept at de­fend­ing with­out draw­ing whis­tles — rank­ing among the na­tion’s best at avoid­ing fouls and keep­ing op­po­nents off the foul line.

Yet Beilein chuck­led when asked if he was hav­ing a dif­fi­cult time find­ing things to cri­tique with his team’s play af­ter the Pur­due win.

“No, I’m find­ing things,” Beilein said. “I’m the same way I’d al­ways be: what can we do bet­ter?”

SAME QUAR­TET

The top four re­mained un­changed in the poll, with Gon­zaga earn­ing 43 of 64 first-place votes. Kansas had 19, while Duke and Vir­ginia each had one.

TOP 10

Michi­gan jumped Ne­vada and Ten­nessee, which checked in at No. 6 and No. 7. Auburn, Ken­tucky and Michi­gan State rounded out the top 10.

TOP RIS­ERS

No. 12 Wis­con­sin and No. 13 Texas Tech made the big­gest jumps of the week. The Badgers jumped 10 spots to No. 22, while the Red Raiders moved up seven from No. 20.

No. 11 Flor­ida State and No. 17 Buf­falo also had no­table climbs, each mov­ing up four spots.

NEW­COM­ERS

There were three new teams in No. 20 Ari­zona State, No. 24 Ne­braska and No. 25 Fur­man. It is Fur­man’s first AP poll ap­pear­ance and comes a lit­tle more than two weeks af­ter the Pal­adins won at Vil­lanova in over­time.

The Corn­huskers are mak­ing their first poll ap­pear­ance since Novem­ber 2014. Ari­zona State, how­ever, spent much of last sea­son in the poll and peaked at No. 3 last De­cem­ber.

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