Despite a disappointing season and a 10th-place finish in the Big Ten, the Michigan men”s basketball team is optimistic about today”s showdown in the Big Ten Tournament against No. 7 seed Northwestern, which will be televised on ESPN at 4:30 p.m.
“There”s new hope, new life,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “Everyone has a chance to be crowned champions.
“Obviously we are one of the team”s that people would view as a stretch at this time, but you never know when you can make your mark.”
If the Wolverines want their season to continue beyond this weekend, they must win four games in Indianapolis. Michigan (5-11 Big Ten, 10-17 overall) has not won more than two consecutive games this year, and it has posted just one road victory all season.
But the team is not looking too far ahead. Northwestern (7-9, 16-12) proved itself to be a dangerous foe after its 58-54 win in Crisler Arena on Jan. 16.
“If we can somehow upset Northwestern, that will be an opportunity to think further down the road and down the line,” Amaker said. “You gather momentum within a tournament, not so much going into the tournament.”
That is a good strategy for the Wolverines to take, considering that they have lost their last six games four of those by more than 20 points.
Nevertheless, Michigan is pleased with its placement in the tournament and believes that it matches up well with the Wildcats.
“This is a winnable game, and our kids need to feel that way,” Amaker said.
When the two teams faced each other in January, Northwestern got off to an impressive start, leading 31-19 at the half.
The Wildcats hung onto that victory with a good ball control (seven turnovers compared to Michigan”s 16) and a deliberate offensive style, scoring most of their points at the end of the shot clock.
“It would be better suited for us if the game had a faster pace,” Amaker said. “But, obviously, everyone has tried to do that against them. It”s difficult to do. I”m hoping we can shoot better and take care of the ball better.”
This game could potentially end of the careers of six seniors, including center Chris Young, who has been the team”s most valuable player this season.
“I can”t look at this as the end,” Young said. “I feel we can win (the Big Ten Tournament). I honestly believe that.”
In addition to playing in what might be the team”s last game of the year, the Wolverines have other incentives against the Wildcats.
“That was a big loss for us (against Northwestern),” Michigan guard Dommanic Ingerson said. “Things were shaky for the rest of the year after that. So, yeah, I think there is a redemption factor.”
Amaker also said that even one victory in the tournament would “advance our program.”
If the Wolverines do, in fact, win today, they will play No. 2 seedOhio State tomorrow at 6:40 p.m.
Sophomore point guard Avery Queen has been nursing a bruised knee all week. He probably will play, but former walk-on Mike Gotfredson and swing man Leon Jones may handle the ball more for the Wolverines.