Michigan Hoops' Biggest 'Surprise' Win This Year?


Michigan basketball has won four games this year that when it entered play had less than a 50.0% chance to win according to Kenpom's win probability graph - against North Carolina (37.0%) and Gonzaga (31.9%) at the Battle 4 Atlantis championship in the Bahamas Nov. 28-29, at Rutgers Feb. 19 (42.7%), and at Purdue Feb. 22 (41.2%). 

Additionally, the Wolverines bested their in-state rival, Michigan State, at home Feb. 8 when they had just a 50.1% chance at tip-off per Kenpom. 

So what was the most surprising victory of the year? One could make an argument for all five, though UNC's overall struggles this season - the Tar Heels are 10-17 (though they were 5-0 heading into the Michigan game) - largely eliminates North Carolina from this conversation. 

Gonzaga is the nation's No. 3 team in the AP Top 25 this week, sits third according to Kenpom and is also third in the NCAA's NET Rankings (thru Feb. 24), having lost just two games all year - to Michigan (10th per Kenpom) and BYU (16th). 

The win over the Bulldogs, considered a big upset at the time, has only grown in significance as the Zags have established themselves to be one of the country's best teams, at one point enjoying 19 straight wins (though only five Quad 1 wins). 

Beating MSU is likely the favorite win of the year for the Michigan fan base, with U-M ending a four-game losing streak to the Spartans; Juwan Howard earning his first 'W' against future Hall of Famer Tom Izzo in just his first season; putting the rivalry back on equal footing; and dethroning an opponent that was the preseason No. 1. 

Rutgers and Purdue, however, also have compelling cases. The Scarlet Knights, 9-8 in conference play and one of the surprise teams of the year, entered the contest 17-0 at home in 2019-20, winning by an average of 8.0 points in eight Big Ten home games previously. Michigan beat them 60-52. 

Mackey Arena, meanwhile, had been a place of horrors for the Maize and Blue (and for the rest of college basketball), as U-M had not won at Purdue since 2014. The Boilermakers were 10-3 at home this season before Michigan showed up and blew them out of their own building, winning 71-63 but leading by as much as 15 late in the second half. 

So what victory was the most surprising? We let you decide. 


Comments (2)


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Steve Deace
Steve Deace


I would vote for the Michigan State game at home. I was more confident going into the Gonzaga game based on the way Michigan was playing that weekend.