Defensive Score Sheet - Arizona at Michigan

Arizona celebrates one of 11 forced turnovers against Michigan. (AP)

It seems pretty obvious that as the NCAA Tournament rolls around Arizona will likely be a popular Final Four pick and possibly the Vegas favorite to cut down the nets. With a come-from-behind win against a good Michigan team (how good we'll find out over the next few months) away from home it seems this might finally be the Sean Miller Arizona squad that can actually make noise in the NCAAs. (Note: Yes, Arizona did make the Elite Eight as a No. 5 seed in 2011, losing to eventual National Champion UConn but I didn't consider that the type of great Arizona team Miller was seemingly putting together with his superb recruiting).

Arizona is, by far, the best team out west and seems a lock for, at-worst, a No. 2 seed in the NCAAs. The longer the Wildcats stay unbeaten, of course, the more a No. 1 seed seems very likely. Saturday's win lifted Arizona to 11-0 with non-home wins coming against San Diego State, Duke and now Michigan. That's a very solid road/neutral resume and we're only in mid-December.

Most impressive is Michigan seemed to be at full strength and the crowd was absolutely rocking. It helped the Wolverines take a 35-26 lead into halftime and carried over as a dunk opened the second-half scoring and gave Michigan an 11-point lead. That's where Arizona began chipping away, the way teams with legitimate title hopes tend to do on the road. When the dust settled it was Arizona 72, Michigan 70.

Here's the defensive score sheet from Ann Arbor's snowy thriller:

  • Arizona has so many weapons that it was quite clear Michigan was going to win as a team or lose as a team. There was no way, especially on the defensive end, that Michigan would have a stopper like Caris LeVert or Glenn Robinson III take over the game and will the Wolverines to victory. Unfortunately for Michigan it was a poor showing from just about everyone sans Jon Horford.

  • Jon Horford got very extended minutes do to an ailing Jordan Morgan and his defense in the post was outstanding; 9.5 forced misses in just 17 minutes is incredible. What Horford did was force the Wildcats to start (and end) their comeback charge from outside the paint. That's where guys like Zak Irvin, Derrick Walton Jr., and LeVert failed miserably.

  • Surprisingly, this was one of Nik Stauskas' best defensive games that I've charted. He's normally in the "red" in terms of comparing his DRtg to the team's overall DRtg. He proved to be a semi-bright spot in the loss showing what he's capable of (six forced misses1.5 forced turnovers).

Nick Johnson (13) was just one of many Arizona players that
shined defensively in the Wildcats' 72-70 win at Crisler Center. (AP)

  • What will take Arizona to the Final Four and beyond is the team's defense. Michigan is always one of the most efficient teams in the country offensively so the 113.7 team DRtg isn't actually as bad as it looks. What's impressive is how it was a complete team effort in terms of how the Wildcats won with defense. T.J. McConnell and Brandon Ashley were great at forcing turnovers but also forced 10 combined misses while Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon weren't as stealthy in terms of taking the ball but combined for 10.5 forced misses. Everyone for the Wildcats was a menace on defense. Kaleb Tarczewski could be called the "weak link" but what he lacks in defensive havoc he makes up by grabbing missed shots (7 against Michigan).
  • It will be interesting to see how Michigan responds from here on out. The loss dropped the Wolverines to 6-4 and, despite three of those four losses coming to top teams (Arizona, Duke, Iowa State), a brutal Big Ten schedule looms. There isn't much doubt, however, that Michigan is the best four-loss team in the country.

The Defensive Score Sheet Project's initial explanation is here. More concise explanations are in this post, but here is a short rundown:
  • Min - Minutes played
  • DREB - Defensive Rebounds
  • FM - Forced field goal miss (includes blocks)
  • FTO - Forced Turnover (steals, charges taken)
  • FFTA - Forced missed Free Throw Attempt
  • DFGM - Allowed Defensive Field Goal Made
  • DFTM - Allowed Free Throw Made
  • DRtg - Defensive Rating (Gives players credit for stops and scoring possessions)
*The DRtg is most important part of a defensive score sheet as it is the analog of an offensive rating. If a player was on the floor for 100 of his team's defensive possessions, the DRtg calculates the number of points the opposition would score.

[NOTE: Deuce2Sports' defensive charting was noted on Sports Illustrated's Web site earlier this season by college basketball writer Luke Winn.]