The Michigan men”s basketball team is doing everything in its power to block out the cataclysmic events the Big Ten Tournament and a decision regarding the coaching staff”s future looming in a few weeks. Instead, the team is focusing on the last three regular-season contests.
“I”m not discussing anything other than Purdue,” Michigan coach Brian Ellerbe told the media at the beginning of yesterday”s weekly press conference. “I just want to let you know right off the bat if you have questions about anything else.”
Michigan will face the Boilermakers in Crisler Arena tomorrow before rounding out the conference season by hosting Northwestern Wednesday and traveling to Michigan State in eight days.
But with a 4-9 Big Ten record (10-14 overall), Michigan will need to make a run in the BTT to receive a postseason berth, regardless of the outcome of the next three games.
“We”re going to win the rest of our games. We don”t have a choice,” Michigan junior Chris Young said. “If we want to do anything past the Big Ten Tournament, we have to win.”
The first roadblock in Michigan”s path to a miraculous turnaround is Purdue, which already beat the Wolverines in West Lafayette, 80-60.
The Boilermakers (5-9, 13-12) have fallen victim to injuries since that Jan. 3 contest. Forward Rodney Smith, the team”s leading scorer, and center John Allison, the team”s leading rebounder, are both sidelined with foot injuries.
Purdue coach Gene Keady “is juggling around a lot of different lineups because of those two guys being out,” Ellerbe said. “They”ve played without them for a little while now so I think they”re getting adjusted a little bit.”
In the game at Mackey Arena, Smith and Allison combined for 30 points to help thwart the Wolverines.
Michigan, which has dropped five of its last six contests, has had a week off to try to change the tide.
Following Saturday”s 93-75 loss to Minnesota, Ellerbe called some players on his team “immature.”
“We”re going to make some guys grow up pretty quickly and finish the season up with some pride and some character,” Ellerbe said in the post-game press conference.
If this sentiment resulted in any changes, the team isn”t revealing it.
“I think we”ve had some productive practices this week,” Gavin Groninger said. “Not much is different.”