From I-94, Michigan loses to Michigan State for a third time this season, this time costing a potential Big Ten Tournament Title. The Basketball Beat breaks down what it means, and Michigan's NCAA Tournament path ahead.
One shot doesn’t lose a game. Neither does one player. That was the refrain echoed in Michigan’s locker room afterwards, and it’s true. But Poole did himself no favors, taking nine threes and making just two of them as Beilein stewed on the bench.
There are varying answers for when that identity took hold. The correct one doesn’t particularly matter. It’s here now. It’s been here since the beginning of the season, and the Wolverines have lost five games. They play in the Big Ten Tournament final tomorrow. This is normal now. It has been normal for a long time.
No. 10 Michigan (27-5 overall, 16-5 Big Ten) moved on to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals with a blowout 74-53 win over Iowa (22-11, 10-11). And, after Minnesota knocked off Purdue earlier in the day, the path to a third-straight Big Ten Tournament final is falling into place.
Basketball in March is an adrenaline-based exercise. After a regular season of scheduled, staggered games against the same rotation of conference opponents, teams must prepare for opponents they haven’t seen on — at most — four or five days’ notice. During the Big Ten Tournament, that window is shortened to less than 24 hours, and on the second end of a weekend during the NCAA Tournament, it’s 48.
How Teske has progressed is this: Two years ago, he came to Michigan and his biggest skill on a basketball court was being tall. He got his ass kicked in practice and rode the bench in games. On the year, he played 60 minutes, made one field goal and blocked seven shots.
Since then, his development has proceeded with the slope of a 45-degree line. The next year, Teske backed up Moritz Wagner and looked good doing it. Then Teske broke out at the Big Ten Tournament final against Purdue, creating the lasting image of the game by dunking on Isaac Haas and yelling into oblivion. When Wagner went to the NBA last summer, Teske stepped into the starting role seamlessly.
With the game tied and the Breslin Center reaching a fever pitch, Winston pulled up for three. It banked in. That was Michigan State’s first lead of the game — a lead it would never squander, as Winston held the rest of the game in the palm of his hand.
To hear the Wolverines talk about attacking the Spartans’ ball-screen defense is to hear a team that has, in the last two weeks, thought critically and deeply about just that. As he sat at that table, Jordan Poole walked any reporter lucky enough to be within earshot step-by-step through attacking a switch.
Michigan plays Michigan State on Saturday. A share of the conference title is on the line — an outright title should Purdue lose at Northwestern earlier in the day. The last time that happened was 1966, 52 years of hate ago.