By Aaron Beard, AP Basketball Writer
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — While Gonzaga and Duke have claimed headline-grabbing wins to start the season, seventh-ranked Michigan is racking up impressive victories of their own against ranked opponents.
The Wolverines (8-0, 1-0 Big Ten) earned a pair of double-digit home wins in the past week, beating No. 11 North Carolina by 17 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and No. 19 Purdue by 19 in Saturday’s league opener.
And that followed a 27-point win against reigning national champion Villanova on Nov. 14 in a rematch of last year’s title game.
It has come amid a shift in recent years to a more defensive focus within the program, which has gone right along with an efficient offense.
“I’m very proud of them because it’s something we’re going to do whatever the score is,” Wolverines coach John Beilein said after Saturday’s win.
Michigan ranks first in the country in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency as of Saturday night’s games, allowing an average of 87 points per 100 possessions. They also have proven adept at defending without drawing whistles, ranking among the nation’s best at avoiding fouls (13 per game) while keeping teams off the foul line with six of eight opponents shooting 13 or fewer free throws.
They also rank 20th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency at 113.6 points per 100 possessions, making the Wolverines a problem for opponents at either end of the court.
Michigan has three double-digit scorers in 6-foot-7 freshman Ignas Brazdeikis (16.3 points), 6-6 senior Charles Matthews (14.6) and 6-5 sophomore Jordan Poole (11.5), while 7-1 junior Jon Teske (8.1) is a big man with some outside range — a notable quality of some of Beilein’s top teams like with Moe Wagner last year.
“That’s an unbelievable 1-2 punch to have both of those qualities,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said of Michigan’s offensive-defensive balance.
Ten teams from the AP Top 25 lost games as of Saturday night. That’s 40 percent of the poll, creating space for plenty of movement in Monday’s new ranking.
Ninth-ranked Michigan State, which lost to Louisville in overtime in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, was the highest-ranked team to lose. And one of the most surprising results was No. 17 Texas losing at home to Radford after returning to the poll last week for the first time since November 2016.
Two teams — No. 18 Oregon and No. 19 Purdue — each had two-loss weeks, though the quality of the opponents were very different.
The Boilermakers lost at No. 15 Florida State before falling to Michigan. But the Ducks lost at home to Texas Southern in a major upset, falling to a team that was 1-4 and a 24-point underdog, and then fell at Houston after a bad first half that left them trailing by 19 at the break.
Coach Dana Altman lamented his team’s rebounding and lack of physicality after the Texas Southern loss, which saw his team beaten 41-32 on the boards. The troubles have been particularly noteworthy when it comes to keeping opponents off the offensive glass; Oregon surrendered 23 offensive rebounds in the losses.
“Our consistency in practice has not been there,” Altman said after the Texas Southern loss, and then followed after the Houston loss by saying: “We are not a very good basketball team, so we have a lot of work to do.”
AT THE TOP
AP Sports Writer Larry Lage in Ann Arbor, Michigan, contributed to this report.
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