It’s already midway through the college basketball season, and Michigan still hasn’t lost a game.
John Beilein’s team matched the best start in school history Thursday, beating Illinois to improve to 16-0. Virginia is the only other undefeated team in the country.
Michigan doesn’t have flashy NBA prospects like Duke or multiple Naismith Award candidates like Tennessee. The Wolverines have different players take the reins every night, depending on who’s hot and who has the right matchup.
The last two games were a perfect example. Against Indiana, Charles Matthews and Jordan Poole led the team with 18 points apiece on 53.6 percent combined shooting.
Four nights later, the duo shot just 7-21 with 24 combined points. Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske took over, combining for 29 points on 52.4 percent shooting.
Ignas Brazdeikis, meanwhile, quietly scored double figures both nights.
Michigan doesn’t have many household names in its rotation, but all five starters have become strong two-way players.
Jordan Poole gets off a shot around Justin Smith of Indiana at the Crisler Center on Jan. 6,2019, in Ann Arbor. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Poole is coming off perhaps his worst performance of the season, especially on defense, but he’s been the team’s best scoring option for the better part of a month.
After being held to just 13 total points in the first three games, Poole exploded for 22 points against George Washington and hasn’t looked back. He’s scored at least 10 points in 11 straight games and is now third on the team in scoring.
The world knows Poole because of the buzzer beater against Houston last season that put Michigan in the Sweet 16. He’s still got plenty of that flair, too. In the win over Indiana, Poole had multiple step-back 3-pointers and a couple of moves that left Hoosier defenders crumpled on the court.
The most impressive part of Poole’s game this season has been his defensive improvement. Despite his obvious offensive talent, it was unclear how much court time the sophomore would earn after a shaky first year on the defensive end.
Now, 16 games into the season, Poole leads the No. 2 team in the country in minutes, averaging 32.8 per game. He’s turned himself into a willing, even strong defender who rarely loses focus as he did last season.
The Illinois game was a different story, as Poole was slow to get back in transition several times and didn’t get in front of slashing ball handlers. Overall, his defensive development has been a major asset for Beilein.
Poole leads Michigan in all three shooting categories, making 50.7 percent of his shots, 45.2 percent from beyond the arc and 82.5 percent from the free thrown line.
Charles Matthews goes up for a dunk against Illinois at State Farm Center on Jan. 10,2019, in Champaign, Illinois. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
The volatility of Matthews’ scoring could be perceived as inconsistency, but it could also be a testament to the way Michigan approaches each game.

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