The three best teams in college basketball are, in some order, Duke, Gonzaga and Kansas.
They are the top three teams in both polls. They are the top three teams in just about every power ranking worth paying attention to. They’re all in the top five on KenPom, which still factors in data from before this season.
The only other team that has been mentioned in the same breath as those three teams since we realized Kentucky wasn’t what we thought they were has been Virginia. Deservedly so.
But it is time to put a fifth team into that tier.
The Michigan Wolverines.
I’m not really breaking new ground when I tell you that this iteration of John Beilein’s program is very, very good. They entered Wednesday night as the No. 7 team in the country largely on the back of a 27 point win at Villanova. They’ve won every game that they’ve played by at least 18 points, and that includes Providence and George Washington. Hell, they’re the reigning national runners-up.
But this 84-67 demolition of No. 11 North Carolina, however, takes it another level.
Look, we know about the defense by now. It’s not surprising that Michigan is able to slow down North Carolina’s fast break or keep them off of the offensive glass, because this might actually be the best defensive team in college basketball this season. There are two brilliant basketball minds on the staff that are there solely to find a way break down the other team, and one of them — Luke Yaklich — lives and breathes defense.
Put another way, North Carolina entered Wednesday night as the best offense in the country. They scored 67 points on 70 possessions, and that was easily the worst night that Michigan has had defensively this year.
We know what they are.
We know they’re built around toughness and defense and exist as the antithesis of everything you thought you knew about John Beilein.
The reason tonight was special?
They shot the **** out of the ball!
Michigan was 11-for-22 from three. They were shooting 32.6 percent from three as a team in the first six games of the season. That’s a difference-maker. Zavier Simpson looked like Chris Paul as he was slicing up the UNC defense in ball-screen actions. Iggy Brazdeikis had 24 points. Charles Matthews had 21 points.
We know the floor that Michigan’s defense provides.
When they can score like this, they can play with — and beat? — anyone in college basketball.
The question John Beilein is going to have to answer how he manages to get performances like this more consistently.