ANN ARBOR — Not since baggy shorts, Super Nintendo, and Wayne’s World were all the rage has Michigan basketball climbed so high.
The Wolverines rose to No. 1 in the Associated Press poll Monday for the first time since the program’s heyday in 1992, when the Fab Five — replete with their knee-length shorts — upended the sport.
A day after improving to a school-record 19-1 with a win at Illinois, UM earned 51 of 65 first-place votes. The Wolverines were followed by Kansas — which earned the top spot in the ESPN coaches poll — Indiana, Florida, and Duke. UM was No. 2 in coaches poll.
UM coach John Beilein predictably downplayed the honor.
"Not one of you can remember who was No. 1 last January," he said Sunday of the Wolverines’ impending ascent. "To our team, that really does not make a difference. I’m sure a lot of our fans at water coolers and coffee shops and the people that love Michigan and hate Michigan, this is probably something they hate or they love right now. Our big thing is let’s keep getting better every day."
Still, the Wolverines’ perch represents rarified air and a resounding validation of Beilein’s steady rebuilding of a once-proud program.
Michigan had fallen into the clutch of scandal and mediocrity in the decade before Beilein set out to change that upon his arrival in 2007.
The former West Virginia coach led UM to its first NCAA tournament appearance in 11 years in 2009, then to a share of the Big Ten title last year.
Now, with national player-of-the-year contender Trey Burke leading a youthful but gifted cast, the Wolverines are No. 1 for the fourth time in school history. Their most recent stretch came in November, 1992, when Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Ray Jackson, and Jimmy King led UM to its second straight national title game.
Later, UM vacated all wins from the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons after an NCAA investigation found payments were made to players from a booster.
Syracuse, Gonzaga, Arizona, Butler, and Oregon rounded out the top 10. Ohio State, which hosts Wisconsin today, climbed three spots to No. 11.
Michigan hosts Northwestern on Wednesday before traveling Saturday to third-ranked Indiana for the most anticipated showdown of the season to date.
Contact David Briggs at: email@example.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.
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