Men's Basketball

John Beilein and the Michigan basketball team will begin the Big Ten Tournament on Friday.

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.

Michigan coach John Beilein's 2013 team also did not win the Big Ten regular season title, but then went on to make the Final Four that year.

As much as those reporters may have inadvertently learned about Beilein’s childhood agricultural findings, no group knows this as well as his 2013 team.

Junior center Jon Teske grew up playing pickup basketball with his 18 cousins at his grandfather's house.

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.

Michigan coach John Beilein will attempt to fix the Wolverines' recent mistakes as they head to the post-season.

Michigan could not stop Cassius Winston. Again.

Michigan State stymied the Wolverines’ ball-screen game. Again.

Michigan blew a second-half lead. Again.

Sophomore forward Isaiah Livers was one of many Wolverines in foul trouble early on in Saturday's loss to Michigan State.

But the Michigan men’s basketball team wasn’t just close in the sense that, in the last game of the season, it was competing for a conference championship. With three minutes left in the first half, the Wolverines were up 12, the title firmly within their grasp.

Michigan blew a second-half lead to Michigan State for the second-straight game, losing a Big Ten title in the process.

That implosion cost the Wolverines a regular-season championship. But really, it shouldn’t have come down to Saturday in the first place.

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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.

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Ultimately, No. 7 Michigan (26-5 overall, 15-5 Big Ten) could only watch as No. 9 Michigan State (23-6, 16-4) seized the title for itself, collapsing in the second half and falling 75-63.

Sophomore guard Jordan Poole realized Minnesota beat Purdue on Tuesday when teammates texted the group chat.

All of a sudden, there was this lifeline, a second chance. All of a sudden, Saturday at the Breslin Center will mean everything for both teams. Whichever one wins will earn at least a share of the conference.

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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.