How should we feel about the 2019 Michigan basketball season?
Michigan falls to Texas Tech in Sweet 16 of NCAA Tournament
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The Michigan basketball season came to a screeching halt Thursday with a blowout loss against Texas Tech in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
It was pretty clear Michigan's season would end due to an offensive drought, but this performance took it to the extreme. Michigan scored 16 points in the first half, shot 32.7 percent from the floor and avoided the worst 3-point shooting performance in tournament history when walk-on C.J. Baird dropped one in off the back of the rim in the final minute.
The Wolverines got down by 16 points in the opening moments of the second half, and from there it was never a question whether Texas Tech would win the game. Michigan never really made a push.
In a win-or-go-home format like the NCAA Tournament, all it takes is one off night to end a team's season, no matter what it accomplished in the regular season. The loss to Texas Tech doesn't mean anything other than Michigan had a terrible offensive night at the worst possible time.
But what does that mean for the 2018-19 season?
For the first time in three seasons, Michigan won't hang a new banner in the rafters of the Crisler Center. A team that won back-to-back Big Ten Tournament championships fell one game short in both the regular season and tournament this year.
Michigan arguably lost its four most important games: all three matchups with Michigan State and the Sweet 16 game. That's a tough pill to swallow for a program that's been built on winning the big games the last several years.
Despite the shortcomings, though, it's unfair to call this season a failure, or even a disappointment.
Michigan won 30 games for the second year in a row, spent basically the entire season in the top 10 of the rankings and reached another Sweet 16. That's a strong list of accomplishments for a "down year."
When the season began, Michigan was a fringe top 25 team because of the roster turnover. Without Moritz Wagner, Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson, it was unclear where the offense would come from this year.
That did ultimately doom Michigan, but John Beilein got the most out of the roster.
Expectations changed early in the season when Michigan started a school record 17-0, including blowout wins at Villanova and against North Carolina and Purdue. Few teams earned a better trio of wins before the calendar turned to 2019.
Michigan won 15 games in the toughest conference in college basketball, falling just a few points short of the No. 1 overall seed in the conference tournament. In Chicago, Michigan stormed to its third straight conference title game before losing a big lead in the final minute to fall just short once again.
To recap, a Michigan team that was seemingly in a bit of a transition year came a few baskets from a regular season conference title and a Big Ten Tournament title before advancing to another Sweet 16.
State of the program
No, it shouldn't be considered a "great" season because Michigan ultimately fell just short of its accomplishments. But the program appears to be as strong as ever.
Charles Matthews will likely move on to the NBA, and Ignas Brazdeikis and Jordan Poole could potentially do the same. If they both return, though, Michigan will be an immediate contender in the Big Ten once again.
The talent of Michigan's 2018 recruiting class should also shine through next season, considering Beilein's knack for getting the most improvement out of players between their freshman and sophomore years.
Even beyond Brazdeikis, Michigan's 2018 class was loaded with talent. Brandon Johns, David DeJulius and Colin Castleton all saw important minutes as freshmen and were four-star recruits. If they make the type of improvement associated with Michigan basketball -- Caris LeVert, Nik Stauskas and Trey Burke being the greatest examples -- the offense will get a huge boost.
The Wolverines will also welcome a pair of four-star freshmen in Jalen Wilson and Cole Bajema. It's possible they could contribute in some capacity next season, especially if they can knock down 3-point shots.
Thursday's loss was embarrassing because of how historically bad the offense was, but in the end, this season will be remembered for a Sweet 16 appearance and 30 wins. The 2017-18 season isn't known as the year Michigan got blown out by Villanova, but the year Michigan made it to the national championship game.
Beilein battled way more adversity in terms of injuries and attrition from 2013-2015, and the program was right back on the national stage by 2017. This was an ugly way to end the season, but Michigan has the players and coaches to be right back among college basketball's best in November.
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