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No. 5 Michigan stays unbeaten, tops South Carolina 89-78

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Jordan Poole scored 19 of his 26 points in the second half, and No. 5 Michigan remained unbeaten with an 89-78 victory over South Carolina on Saturday.

The Gamecocks (4-5) scored more points than any team all season against Michigan. But the Wolverines (10-0) were ahead by six at halftime, and they led comfortably for most of the second half.

Iggy Brazdeikis scored 17 points and Jon Teske added 15 for Michigan. Chris Silva led South Carolina with 18.

Michigan was coming off its first close game of the season — a two-point win at Northwestern on Tuesday night. The Wolverines were uncharacteristically careless against South Carolina, turning the ball over 11 times in the first half.

Still, Michigan went on a 13-2 run near the end of the first and led 42-36 at halftime.

Poole went to work in the second half with a pair of 3-pointers and a dunk, putting the Wolverines up 56-45. The sophomore guard scored 15 points in the first 10 minutes of the half.

BIG PICTURE

South Carolina: No opponent had shot better than 45 percent from the field against Michigan. The Gamecocks finished at 52 and also won the turnover battle against the Wolverines. South Carolina was done in by fouls. Michigan shot 23 of 30 on free throws while the Gamecocks were just 9 of 14.

Michigan: The Wolverines had held every opponent under 40 percent from the floor until their last two games, when Northwestern and South Carolina eclipsed that. So Michigan hasn’t been as dominant this week at the defensive end, but the Wolverines had five players score at least 12 points Saturday and won without much drama.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Nobody ahead of Michigan lost this week, although Sunday’s matchup between No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 7 Tennessee could affect where the Wolverines end up in the next ranking.

No. 5 Michigan holds off Northwestern for 62-60 win

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EVANSTON, Ill. — Ignas Brazdeikis scored 13 of his 23 points in the second half and Jordan Poole made two big plays in the last 2 1/2 minutes to help No. 5 Michigan hold off Northwestern for a 62-60 victory Tuesday night.

Poole finished with 15 points as the Wolverines (9-0, 2-0 Big Ten) added to their best start since they opened the 2012-13 season with 16 straight victories. Zavier Simpson scored 10 points, and Jon Teske had eight points and 10 rebounds.

The game was tied at 58 when Poole fed Teske for a dunk with 2:30 left. After Ryan Taylor made a jumper for Northwestern, Poole drove inside for another dunk that made it 62-60 with 1:53 left.

Michigan had a shot-clock violation with 14 seconds to go, giving Northwestern one last chance. Taylor was long on a desperation 3-pointer as time expired.

Dererk Pardon led the Wildcats (6-3, 0-2) with 20 points on 9-for-10 shooting. Vic Law shook off a slow start and finished with 19.

It was a second straight tough defeat for Northwestern, including a 68-66 loss at Indiana on Saturday.

Michigan appeared to be in control after opening the second half with a 9-0 run to make it 45-30 with 17:19 left. But Northwestern came roaring back.

Pardon’s driving layup sparked a 15-2 spurt for the Wildcats. A.J. Turner’s three-point play sliced Michigan’s lead to 47-45 with 13:16 remaining, sending a charge through the crowd at Welsh-Ryan Arena and prompting the Wolverines to take a timeout.

Brazdeikis helped Michigan settle down, converting a layup to make it 51-45 with 11:30 left. The freshman, who exited for a brief moment in the first half due to a back issue, went 9 for 18 from the field.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: The Wolverines had some defensive issues in the second half but helped themselves with a 33-26 rebounding advantage for the game.

Northwestern: Law sparked the Wildcats in the second half, scoring 11 points.

UP NEXT

Michigan stays home for the next month, beginning Saturday against South Carolina. The Wolverines’ next road game is Jan. 10 at Illinois.

Northwestern hosts DePaul on Saturday and doesn’t play another Big Ten game until Jan. 2 at Michigan State.

NBC Sports Top 25: Michigan rising, Kansas falling

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The hardest thing for me to do when ranking teams is to decide between who looks the best when you are watching a team play and who has the most impressive body of work to date.

Because they are, in essence, two different things.

Rankings based off of the body of work that a team has put together is fine, but in essence those rankings are essentially a replacement for NCAA tournament seedings. Think about it like this — Furman won at Villanova, which means that Furman will get credit for that win should they find their way into the NCAA tournament, but how many people truly believe that Furman is the better basketball team?

Put another way, if Furman and Villanova played tomorrow on a neutral court and you had to bet your rent money on one of those two teams winning, you’re betting on Villanova.

Because you think they’re the better basketball team.

This is why I think that ranking Duke No. 1 was and still is valid, but that’s not a fight I’m going to fight anymore. We live in a world where people demand a two-point win on a neutral floor to be definitive proof one team is better than another, and I just don’t have the time or the energy to argue about it anymore. Y’all won.

But it does create something of a conundrum when dealing with Michigan, Kansas and Virginia. Michigan has made this decision a bit easier by sandblasting North Carolina and Purdue this week, so the argument can be made that their overall resume is now stronger than that of Kansas. That said, the Jayhawks have neutral court wins over a top six team in Tennessee, a top 15 team in Michigan State and over Marquette, who just beat a top 15 Kansas State team by double-figures on Saturday.

That resume is better than Virginia’s. It’s better than Duke’s. Hell, it’s probably better than Gonzaga’s.

But I am going to rank them fifth this week because — and I do believe Jayhawk fans will agree with me here — Kansas has not looked right yet this season. I’m not sure if Quentin Grimes has actually made a shot since the first half of the Champions Classic. Udoka Azubuike can’t seem to stay out of foul trouble, and when he’s not on the floor Kansas doesn’t look the same. Charlie Moore hasn’t been great. The bench is looking less and less like it’s all that deep. If it wasn’t for the heroics of Lagerald Vick, who has repeatedly had absolutely massive games and hit clutch shots to keep Kansas undefeated.

Winning ugly is still winning, and there is something to say for that. Those concerns haven’t cost them yet, but this is something that Bill Self is going to have to figure out.

And until he does, Kansas is going to drop in my top 25.

Anyway, here is the rest of the top 25:

1. Gonzaga (8-0, Last Week: 1)
2. Duke (7-1, 3)
3. Michigan (8-0, 6)
4. Virginia (7-0, 4)
5. Kansas (6-0, 2)
6. Tennessee (6-1, 5)
7. Nevada (8-0, 7)
8. Auburn (6-1, 9)
9. North Carolina (6-1, 8)
10. Florida State (6-1, 13)
11. Texas Tech (7-0, 19)
12. Kentucky (7-1, 14)
13. Michigan State (6-2, 12)
14. Virginia Tech (6-1, 11)
15. Wisconsin (7-1, 20)
16. Kansas State (6-1, 10)
17. N.C. State (7-1, 17)
18. Purdue (5-3, 18)
19. Ohio State (7-1, 16)
20. Arizona State (7-0, 24)
21. Creighton (6-2, UR)
22. Buffalo (7-0, 22)
23. Iowa (6-1, 21)
24. Nebraska (7-1, UR)
25. Mississippi State (6-1, 25)

New Additions: 21. Creighton, 24. Nebraska
Dropped Out: 15. Oregon, 23. Clemson

Poole scores 21, No. 7 Michigan beats No. 19 Purdue 76-57

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Jordan Poole scored 21 points as part of a balanced offense and No. 7 Michigan was stingy on defense in a 76-57 win over No. 19 Purdue on Saturday, routing a third ranked team this season.

The Wolverines (8-0) are off to their best start since winning the first 16 games of the 2012-13 season. They were coming off an 84-67 win over No. 11 North Carolina, and they beat then-No. 8 Villanova 73-46 on its home court last month.

The Boilermakers (5-3) have lost three of their last four games.

Michigan’s Jon Teske matched his career high with 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Ignas Brazdeikis scored 12 and Zavier Simpson had 10 points and seven assists. Charles Matthews added nine points, five rebounds and four assists.

Purdue’s Carsen Edwards scored 19 on 7-of-21 shooting and Ryan Cline added 15 points.

The Wolverines picked up where they left off Wednesday night against the Tar Heels, making shots and getting stops to take the lead. They kept it without much of a fight from the Boilermakers.

Michigan led 44-28 at halftime after connecting on 53 percent of its shots and holding Purdue to 36 percent from the field.

The Wolverines’ shooting accuracy slipped in the second half, falling to 47 percent, but they kept up the intensity on defense to keep Purdue at 36 percent.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Cline needs more shots. He was 6 of 8 from the field and 3 of 5 from beyond the arc, but Edwards looked for his shot much more than he tried to pass to his sharpshooting guard.

Michigan: The Wolverines are going to be tough to beat because all five players on the floor can score and they all play in-your-chest defense.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Michigan can’t move up much, but it may merit a higher ranking with its impressive start. The Boilermakers might fall out of the AP Top 25.

Offensive explosion in win over No. 11 UNC puts No. 7 Michigan among elite

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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.

Wednesday’s Things to Know: Florida State, Michigan earn big home wins

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Wednesday’s college basketball slate was mostly dominated by the ongoing ACC/Big Ten Challenge as road wins turned out to be a big theme of the night. While No. 7 Michigan and No. 15 Florida State made major statements, it was road teams who made the most of the annual non-conference showcase.

1. No. 15 Florida State comes back to beat No. 19 Purdue

The most compelling finish to any game on Wednesday night was Florida State’s back-and-forth win over Purdue in a fun nightcap. The Seminoles had the game-winning bucket from guard Trent Forrest with 5.6 seconds left as they went from up 12 at halftime to being down by two possessions for much of the second half.

This is the kind of comeback win that should give the Seminoles a lot of confidence. On a somewhat weird night where they squandered a lead, Florida State was still able to forge a comeback against a top-25 team playing arguably its best stretch of ball during the season.

The Seminoles had eight different players score at least seven points in this one as they remain one of the most deep and athletic teams in the country. Even if someone doesn’t go bananas for Florida State, they have enough in the rotation to wear you down over the course of 40 minutes.

2. No. 7 Michigan makes a big statement in win over No. 11 North Carolina

Another major statement from Michigan as the Wolverines knocked off another potential Final Four team by double-digits. Even after going down early, the Wolverines quickly rallied to fly by the Tar Heels behind 24 points from freshman Iggy Brazdeikis and 21 points from junior guard Charles Matthews.

We know that Michigan’s defense is going to be nearly elite on most nights. But if Michigan is shooting 11-for-22 from behind the three-point line, they’re going to be nearly impossible to beat this season.

CBT’s Rob Dauster has more on this one here.

3. Syracuse, Virginia, Rutgers earn important road wins

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge had a lot of road teams picking up wins on Wednesday night. The biggest one of note is Syracuse taking down No. 16 Ohio State to earn an important victory. The Orange dominated most of the second half of this one as I have more takeaways on this game here.

Elsewhere, No. 4 Virginia held off No. 24 Maryland to earn another solid win. Although the Terps put up a valiant effort with a good offensive effort, the Cavaliers earned the win thanks to solid nights from Kyle Guy (18 points) and Ty Jerome (17 points).

And Rutgers quietly picked up one of its biggest wins in years by knocking off Miami for a road win. The Scarlet Knights defense held the Hurricanes to 34 percent shooting as Geo Baker led the way with 16 points. This win is important for Rutgers as they have back-to-back games against ranked Big Ten teams within the next week.

The only home team to win in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge besides Michigan on Wednesday was Northwestern. The Wildcats put together a 67-61 win over Georgia Tech.