There’s probably not much the players on the Michigan men’s basketball team and a pig-tailed girl in a blue- and white-checkered dress from Kansas have in common.

But for the Wolverines, Dorothy’s words never rang truer.

After a two-game road trip that featured Michigan’s first back-to-back losses of the season, the Wolverines return home to Crisler Arena tonight. They welcome Iowa to town in hopes to re-route their season toward the NCAA Tournament after the detour it took in Madison and Bloomington last week.

Michigan’s record stood at 16-4 entering the road trip, but it lacked the sort of marquee victory that the NCAA Selection Committee looks at when deciding who to invite. Even though both games offered opportunities to capture such a win, the Wolverines came up short on each occasion and returned home empty-handed.

But Michigan coach Tommy Amaker is disappointed that people appear focused on his Wolverines as the only team that needs such a victory.

“It seems like we have that arrow pointed at us in that regard, which is perplexing to me in a lot of ways,” Amaker said. “I think everybody is in the same boat we’re in. I don’t see any difference.”

Amaker acknowledged the two road losses were missed opportunities for his team and expressed Michigan’s need to “right the ship” against the Hawkeyes.

Usually a contender in the conference, Iowa has struggled this year after winning the Big Ten Tournament last season. It lost four seniors, including key scorers Jeff Horner and Greg Brunner. Largely due to the loss of experience, the Hawkeyes have already suffered four conference losses and 10 overall. But Iowa still boasts the Big Ten’s leading scorer in senior Adam Haluska.

The 6-foot-5 senior guard averages 20 points per game and is second in the conference in free-throw percentage (85 percent). But what impresses Amaker about Haluska isn’t just his statistics.

“(Haluska’s) a tough matchup,” Amaker said. “His stamina, his durability, he can run all day. He can move really well without the ball. He wears you down and causes you to play the possession all the way through and be disciplined and alert. So we’re going to have our hands full trying to guard him.”

The task of stopping Haluska will most likely fall upon senior Dion Harris, Michigan’s most capable one-on-one defender. Harris has traditionally played very well against tough individual competition, and he hopes to rise to the occasion yet again tonight.

In addition to trying to stop Iowa’s star, Harris will also have to look to get his own offensive game started, something he struggled with against Indiana.

With sophomore point guard Jerret Smith held out against the Hoosiers because of a mild concussion, Harris had to assume ball-handling duties. This removed him from his preferred two-guard spot, and he concentrated on setting his teammates up for shots rather than looking for his own. His offensive game suffered, as he finished 3-of-9 for just 12 points.

“I just had to do more with the ball,” Harris said. “I wasn’t able to get freed up and run the wing at all on Saturday. It just makes it harder when you have to be the point guard for the whole time and create shots for everybody else and for myself. It’s always hard, and having Jerret on Saturday would have changed that a lot.”

When asked what the difference was between the Indiana and Purdue game, when Harris led the team with 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting, the senior again pointed to his teammate.

“Obviously, Jerret was out there, and he did a lot for us,” Harris said. “Like I said, having Jerret out there to be point guard helps me a lot.”

Smith’s availability against Iowa is still in question. He practiced lightly on Monday, but didn’t participate in any contact drills. The team won’t know until gametime if Smith will play.

Regardless of whether Michigan has its full roster available, the Wolverines must be happy to return to Ann Arbor, where they are 14-1 this year and 30-4 over the past two seasons.

But even though there truly has been “no place like home” for Michigan, it knows that nothing is guaranteed, even at Crisler Arena.

“We can’t think that just because we’re at home, we’re going to win the basketball game,” senior captain Lester Abram said. “It’s obvious we have to have this win. . coming off two losses. We just want to feel good about winning a basketball game again, so this is a must-win for us.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.