Michigan Wolverines Can Earn No. 1 Spot in AP Top 25 Barring an Upset This Week

By Chris Katje
USA TODAY Sports-Brad Penner

The Duke Blue Devils had an embarrassing loss to Miami on Wednesday night. The loss marks the third straight week that the number one team in the AP Top 25 Poll has lost. On Monday, the new number one team should finally be the Michigan Wolverines.

Two weeks ago, the Wolverines ruined their opportunity with a Big Ten Conference loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes. Now, the Wolverines will have two games before the new poll outs and a chance to prove they are the best team in all of NCAA Basketball. In the current poll, Michigan ranked second behind Duke by a rather thin margin of 1578 to 1539. Michigan also received 11 first place votes compared to 39 by Duke. The number two spot tied the highest ranking for Michigan on the season, who has not been ranked lower than fifth in 12 weeks worth of polls.

Up first for the 17-1 Wolverines is Purdue on Jan. 24. The Boilermakers hold a 10-8 record overall and a 3-2 Big Ten record. Purdue ranks 196th in points and 215th in field goal percentage. Both of these are areas Michigan excels at. The Wolverines average 79.3 points per game, good for ninth in the nation. The team is the fourth ranked team in field goal percentage with a percentage of .510. One area the Wolverines will need to focus on is rebounds. Purdue averages 41.2 rebounds (12th) compared to Michigan’s 37.2 (41st). The Wolverines will need to keep Purdue off the glass and make sure it forces the poor shooting team to take bad shots.

On Sunday, Michigan will play the Illinois Fighting Illini, who hold a 15-5 overall record. Illinois was in the rankings for a long time, prior to a collapse that has them showing a 2-4 conference record. The big question is which team will show up for Illinois. The Fighting Illini have big wins over Gonzaga and Ohio State, but have lost some bad games to the lower tier Big Ten teams. Illinois ranks in the bottom portion of the NCAA in rebounds, assists and field goal percentage. Illinois does have some athletic guards that can shoot the ball well, but they should be outmatched by Michigan’s talent and depth.

The last time the Wolverines held the number one spot in the polls was 1992. That team featured the “Fab Five” with high expectations to win the NCAA Tournament. This year’s team is the best it has been in years, but also faces the difficult task of playing in the best conference of the 2012-2013 basketball season. I picked the Wolverines to come out on top of the league with two losses. With one more loss, the Wolverines might lose the number one spot later on in the season. I recently gave five reasons why I think Michigan can win it all this year. Share your thoughts on how far the Wolverines can go in 2012-2013.

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