2013: The best Michigan Basketball team of the decade?


As Matt Shepard once said, “Keep feeding the scoring beasts.”

This quote pretty much sums up the 2012-2013 Michigan Basketball team and its season,

Going into the 2012-2013 season, the Michigan Wolverines basketball team looked to avenge a mediocre season at best. After losing in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament to the Ohio Bobcats, head coach John Beilein looked to bring in a top 10 recruiting class in the nation to Michigan, which included 5-star recruit Glenn Robinson III, 4-stars Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskus, and lowly rated 3-stars like Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht. Along with national player of the year candidates Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., this team was stacked all across the board.

When Trey Burke came back for his sophomore season, everyone was shocked because he proved he was a great prospective NBA talent. As more and more questions were asked of him and Hardaway Jr., it looked clear that this Wolverines team was looking for a national championship, something that hasn’t been done at Michigan since 1989. It was some of the first real excitement since the Fab Five days in the program that suffered through the very mediocre eras of Ellerbe and Tommy Amaker. There were doubters all across the country and even in Ann Arbor, but they proved everyone wrong and defied all odds. 

After being ranked 5th in the nation to start off the year, Michigan started off 13-0 in non-conference play, and the Wolverines matched up with NC State for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. It was their first real test of the year, and as the game went along, they soundly beat the Wolfpack by 10. Michigan went into Big Ten play 14-0, and the Wolverines started off the conference slate with comfortable wins over Iowa and Northwestern. As Michigan went 16-0 to start off the year, they traveled to Columbus for a date with the Ohio State Buckeyes. 

Mitch McGary (#4) and Glenn Robinson III (#1) getting hype after an NC State turnover.

The Buckeyes were a very sound team, going 12-3 before this game as they sported the number 15 ranking in the nation. As the first half started, it was not a good look for the Wolverines. Ohio State controlled every aspect of that game in the half, and Michigan went into halftime trailing 34-22. As the Wolverines came out in the second half though, they gained a little more energy and played aggressively, but Michigan ended up losing its first game of the year 56-53.

Even though it was a setback, Michigan had little time to lick their wounds as they traveled to Minneapolis, Minnesota only four days later for the first top 10 matchup of the year with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. From the start of the game, it was physical between both teams. Michigan knew they had to fight back though as they came out with a lot of energy. Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. both put the team on their back throughout as the Wolverines won a tough matchup by a score of 83-75.

Glenn Robinson III throws down a 360 dunk as Michigan beats #9 Minnesota.

After winning their next three games by more than 20 points, the Wolverines sported the number 1 ranking in the country for the first time since the Fab Five era in the 90s, but it came at the wrong time. Michigan had to travel to Indiana University for another tough game against the Hoosiers in one of the most intimidating environments in college basketball.

As Indiana rose to stardom during the season, it was clear who the Hoosiers were led by. Future lottery picks Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller were dominating the first half against the Wolverines, but Trey Burke would just not give in. The sophomore guard scored 15 of his 25 points all in the last 15 minutes of the first half as the Wolverines went into halftime trailing by 4. Even though Michigan looked to bring the same energy as they did against Ohio State, it was clear that IU had won the game solely based on the energy that the crowd at Assembly Hall gave them. The Hoosiers won 81-73, and it just wasn’t the Michigan team that we were used to seeing that season.

Indiana’s Victor Oladipo (#4) throws down a massive dunk in the first half of a game between #1 Michigan and #3 Indiana

The scheduling gauntlet just didn’t stop for the Wolverines as they had another top 10 matchup against Ohio State yet again. It was a revenge game for the Wolverines, and the game had important NCAA Tournament and Big Ten Tournament seeding implications. Coming out victorious 76-74 at Crisler, the Wolverines made another statement with a huge win.

Trey Burke (left) guards Ohio State guard Aaron Craft (right) on the final possession of the game.

The Wolverines were riding high into what they thought would be an easy matchup against unranked Wisconsin. The Badgers looked eager and performed outstanding all night. Even if it was by the luck of a buzzer-beater, Wisconsin would win 65-62 in overtime. Just after, Michigan looked to avenge another loss against another top 10 team in Michigan State. It was a night that the Wolverines wanted to forget though, as they lost by a resounding 20 points. 

After two easy wins against Penn State and Illinois at home, the Wolverines took on the Nittany Lions again but would have to travel to State College for this one. Michigan shot terribly all game and just did not bring the same aggression that Penn State did as they would go on to lose yet again, 84-78.

The Penn State student section rushes the court after Penn State beat #4 Michigan

As the rocky ending went along, Michigan would finish 2-1, beating Michigan State in a revenge game and beating Purdue soundly, while losing to Indiana to finish out the season, and losing a Big Ten Title in whole. Michigan would beat Penn State in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament but ended up losing to Wisconsin yet again. All of this was giving the Wolverines false hope heading into the NCAA Tournament. That was until someone spoke up about the matter.

Assistant coach John Meyer said in an interview later after the season, “It was almost like they wanted the season to be over just so they could get to the NCAA Tournament.” These words would never be misspoken because he was exactly right.

After sporting the 4th seed in the South Division of the NCAA Tournament, the Wolverines would beat 13 seed South Dakota St. and 5 seed VCU to move on to play in the Sweet 16 round at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. It was a huge achievement for Michigan, but it was the toughest opponent that they have faced all year.

The 1 seed in the South Division of the NCAA Tournament was the Kansas Jayhawks. Led by Big 12 defensive player of the year Jeff Withey and offensive masterminds Kevin Young, Ben McLemore, and Travis Releford, it was apparent that the Jayhawks were going to give Michigan a run for their money.

As the game started, it was more known now more than ever that the Wolverines needed someone to step up. After Trey Burke got into foul trouble, freshman big man Mitch McGary would step in to face one of his biggest competitors yet, Jeff Withey. With McGary being 6’ 10 and Withey being 7’ 2, everyone thought that Withey would have the upper hand. That was not the case as McGary would go on to have 17 of his 25 points in the 1st half, and Michigan was only now trailing by 4 going into halftime.

Mitch McGary (right) drives to the basket against Jeff Withey (left)

As both teams came back out of the locker rooms, the spotlight was shining bright on Trey Burke. Michigan’s best player, and national player of the year finalist, had scored 0 points all game. Michigan needed to turn around the lead that Kansas had, but Burke needed to be a big part of it. Burke would step up to the challenge as he had 16 points in the 2nd half, but with about 10 minutes remaining in regulation, it looked like Michigan didn’t have enough to win. Kansas was up by 15 at this point, and they were dominating inside. Kansas, all together that night, scored 60 points in the paint. That still holds a record today for most points scored in the paint in an NCAA Tournament game ever.

With 10 minutes and counting, the Wolverines would chip away at the Jayhawks lead, thanks in large part to Burke and McGary’s production. With about 2 minutes left in regulation, the Jayhawks were up by 5. Burke would lead down the floor and waste a lot of clock to get it down to 1 minute left in regulation. Burke would drive down the lane where he lobbed one up for Glenn Robinson III, and he slammed it down. Kansas would call a timeout, and Michigan fans were sure to be feeling the energy wherever they were watching. With just under a minute left, Kansas would let the clock go down to 5 seconds after an offensive board, and Michigan had to foul. They sent Elijah Johnson, one of the best free-throw shooters on this Kansas team, to the line. He missed both free throws and Michigan came down the floor sprinting. Burke had it on the left side, brought it over to the right, where McGary set a perfect screen for him, and Burke took the most important shot of his life. It was an almost 35’ shot but he swished it. Everyone went crazy on the Michigan bench, and the game was tied at 75 going into overtime. Michigan would dominate the overtime period as they would go on to win 87-85.

Trey Burke (#3) shoots the biggest shot of the game against Kansas over Kevin Young (#40). “The day the earth stood still.”

After a blowout win against 3 seed Florida on Easter Sunday in the Elite Eight, Michigan was heading to the Final Four in Atlanta, playing their best basketball all year. Michigan would face another 4 seed, Syracuse, in the last game of the day while the No. 1 overall seed Louisville would play Cinderella story 9 seed Wichita State in the opening game.

After Louisville beat Wichita St, Michigan would look to beat the Syracuse Orange and move on to play in the NCAA Championship game for the first time since 1993. It was even scoring all around for the Wolverines while Syracuse forward C.J. Fair was doing all the work for the Orange as he scored 22 points that night. Michigan would be up 59-56 late in the game when their defense stepped up big. Little known junior Jordan Morgan, a role player off the bench for Michigan all year, would take a big charge, getting an offensive foul called on Syracuse. Michigan would inbound the ball to Caris LeVert as he would pass the ball ahead to a wide-open Jordan Morgan as he threw down a dunk to close out the game. Michigan would win 61-56 and would face their biggest opponent of the year, the Louisville Cardinals.

Jordan Morgan (#52) finishes a dunk to solidify a Michigan win in the Final Four over Syracuse.

The storyline going into this game was Peyton Silva vs. Trey Burke. They were 2 of the 3 National Player of the Year finalists, and they both played point guard. With Silva being backed up by Gorgui Deng, Luke Hancock, and Montrezl Harrel, and Burke by Tim Hardaway Jr, Mitch McGary, Gleen Robinson III, and Nik Staskus, it was all setting up to be a great matchup.

The matchup lived up to the hype on a crisp Monday night in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. The Wolverines and the Cardinals both played really well in the first half, but it was Michigan bringing the lead into halftime. This was, in big part, to Trey Burke getting in foul trouble. With Burke getting 2 fouls early, little known freshman Spike Albrecht stepped in. Even if he was guarded by Peyton Silva, the kid couldn’t be stopped. Albrecht shot 4 for 5 from the 3 point line and scored on 2 layups and a free throw. He had 17 points going into halftime, and even though he was playing the best he ever played in his basketball career, the Wolverines turned to Burke mostly in the 2nd half. With a 2 point lead going into the half, all eyes were on Louisville and seeing how they would respond to the most adversity they had faced all year.

Spike Albrecht (#2) drives by Luke Hancock (#11) for an easy layup in the National Championship game on April 8th, 2013.

As the last 20 minutes of the whole season started, Louisville was bringing a lot of energy, and it showed. Luke Hancock was on fire all game, shooting 5 for 5 from the 3 point line all in the 2nd half. Even though Hancock was virtually scoring on every possession for the Cardinals, Michigan responded very well. It was all Burke and Hardaway Jr. for Michigan in the 2nd half with Burke taking most of the shots and Hardaway Jr. driving to the hoop to create open opportunities for him and his other teammates. Now, down by 5 with just over 3 minutes to go in the game, Silva got a fast break opportunity where we saw him and Burke running down the court. While Silva went up for the layup, it looked like Burke was getting little body contact with Silva, and it looked like a clean block. Even though it was a clean block, apparent to everyone including Louisville’s coach Rick Pitino, the referees called it a foul anyway because Silva leaned into Burke for half a second. 

Trey Burke (left) goes up for a block against Peyton Silva (right). Burke was called for a foul in a very controversial call.

Burke was furious because he knew that if Silva made the shot or got both free throws to go in, Michigan would probably lose the game. He was right because Michigan only had one counterpunch with a fierce Tim Hardaway Jr dunk. It wasn’t enough though as the Wolverines would lose in heartbreak by a score of 82-76.

Trey Burke walks off the court as Louisville celebrates a national championship win.

With this season being such a success for the Michigan Basketball program, it was a statement to the college basketball world that Michigan was back on the map. Trey Burke would go on to win National Player of the Year as he entered the NBA Draft with Tim Hardaway Jr. 

With my argument being presented, I think the 2012-2013 team was the better of the two solely based off of who they played, and how much talent the team had. This Michigan team faced very tough opponents and proved that they could stick around with them. They also had future NBA talents like Caris Levert and Tim Hardaway Jr most notably. Even though it was a tough way to go out, this Michigan basketball team will be one that I remember as a Michigan fan, and I hope that all Michigan fans will too.

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2017: The best Michigan Basketball team of the decade?