Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo, Matt Charboneau and James Hawkins preview the Michigan-Loyola-Chicago matchup in the Final Four on Saturday in San Antonio. The Detroit News
Michigan coach John Beilein has the Wolverines two victories from the national title.
Riding a 13-game winning streak, Michigan (32-7) is doing it with defense. And, Beilein is doing it the right way, a big reason why he was named Thursday the national coach of the year by CBS Sports as part of its college basketball awards.
Also honored was Michigan State forward Miles Bridges, who was named a second-team All-American.
Michigan is back in the Final Four for the first time since 2013, when it reached the national title game. It faces Loyola-Chicago on Saturday evening.
Michigan was coming off a season in which it won the Big Ten tournament title and reached the Sweet Sixteen, but was overshadowed by in-state rival Michigan State, which was a popular preseason pick to win the national title — thanks in part to the return of Bridges.
Instead, the Spartans were bounced in the Round of 32 and lost twice to the Wolverines.
“It’s not that anyone thought John Beilein’s Michigan team was bad,” Reid Forgrave of CBS Sports writes. “It’s just that not many people outside the state thought of Michigan at all for most of the early season. We were all focused on Michigan’s more hyped, more talented in-state rival, Michigan State.
“But the Wolverines broke into the AP Top 25 on Jan. 15, two days after beating Michigan State in East Lansing. They hung around the bottom of the top 25 for the next month, until suddenly they became the hottest team in the nation.”
Michigan is eighth in the nation in scoring defense (63.1 points).
“ ... Despite Beilein’s longstanding reputation as an offensive guru,” Forgrave writes, “this team is building its reputation on one of the nation’s best defenses.”
Forgrave also credited Beilein’s spotless reputation in the face of a college basketball season that’s been marred by an FBI invesigation.
“ ... Here is Beilein at the end of the season,” Forgrave writes, “still winning despite his reputation — among peers — as the cleanest high-major coach in the country. To be sure, Beilein won this award because his team vastly exceeded its expectations in making a Final Four run. But it’s pretty sweet, during a dark college basketball season like this one, to be able to award a coach who is respected for things other than winning.”
Bridges led the Spartans in scoring at 17.1 points and was second with seven rebounds per game. He was the only second-year player who finished in the top 10 in All-America voting at CBS Sports.
Bridges declared for the NBA Draft on Wednesday.
“He was the best sophomore in college basketball in 2018-18,” Matt Norlander of CBS Sports writes.