Ya, I mean, take away the second half choke job in Columbus, the ass-whoopin' at the hands of Nebrasketball, and that crap in Chicago, and Michigan could've been in the hunt. Massively improved defense, maybe the best ever under Beilein, was the driving force of the success of the Wolverines, and saved them from their painfully regular extended scoring droughts. Michigan's signature victory was a 10-point drubbing of Sparty in East Landfill, their only loss at the Nasser Center. They also knocked off the Longhorns in Austin, one of only 4 losses Texas had at home. And Michigan at home? Only one defeat, which was a hard fought battle with Purdue stolen away by crap end of game officiating.
Michigan belongs in the conversation, I'm just not sure which one. They've shown the ability to go toe to toe with the top of this league. My concern is that this year that distinction doesn't carry much weight. It's weird though, the B1G has been here before. Slow, defense heavy basketball...that shit takes the tournament field by surprise. Don't be surprised if a couple of B1Gs make the elite 8.
But there's another tournament first, and with the tiebreaker going to the Huskers, we find ourselves in a similar situation as last year, needing to win (though the path will likely not include a plane crash) four games again to repeat as conference champions. What will be cool is that our path gives us shots at teams we only got to play once during the regular season. Would like some revenge against the Huskers, and always enjoy playing Sparty.
Winner of Iowa - Illinois on Thursday. Nebraska on Friday, and likely Sparty on Saturday.
Michigan finished the season with 5 straight wins, the last two of which had Michigan as road underdogs. They seem to be hot, even peaking, running Maryland out of their own gym on senior night in College Park. But there's going to be some time off now. And then a ton of time off before the NCAA tournament. This stupid pull-ahead Big Ten tournament places the champions of the league on a minimum 11-day layoff before the NCAA tournament starts. Weird. Stupid. If you exit early, it's two full weeks off. How does this make sense?
Anyway, still looking for someone to take over on offense. Looking for a Mitch McGary '13 or Mo Wagner '17 type of guy...maybe it will be Mo Wagner? Matthews still needs to turn it around. Simpson needs to hit his free throws. Duncan Robinson needs to maintain his new found defensive prowess...but more importantly needs to hit his threes. There's a recipe somewhere that gets Michigan to the second weekend of the NCAAs. It will take some luck, a decent draw, and patience, especially since the second weekend of the NCAAs is a FULL MONTH FROM TODAY.