On Jan. 28, the Michigan basketball team came up with one of its
better performances of the season. The Wolverines were lights out
from the field, and exploded for a 90-84 win over Iowa.

Beth Dykstra
Graham Brown and the rest of the Wolverines have one last shot at the NCAAs. (RYAN WEINER/Daily)

Three weeks later, on Feb. 14, the Wolverines went into Iowa
City and collapsed in a 69-61 loss to the Hawkeyes.

The two-game set summed up Michigan’s 2003-04 campaign
— one day the Wolverines would look like world-beaters; the
next, they couldn’t do anything right.

Michigan (8-8 Big Ten, 17-10 overall) will open its Big Ten
Tournament play today at 2:30 p.m. when it takes on Iowa (9-7,
16-11).

And if the Wolverines are still clinging to NCAA Tournament
aspirations, then they had better hope that the right Michigan team
shows up.

“I think when you are young, you are always looking for
opportunities to grow and develop,” Michigan coach Tommy
Amaker said. “I think we have seen that it in different
pockets throughout the season.”

While the young Wolverines have hit some trouble spots on the
road to success this year, all of the negative moments could be
erased should Michigan put together a good showing this
weekend.

Most college basketball analysts believe that the Wolverines
will need at least two wins to have a shot at the NCAA Tournament.
But Michigan would rather not leave it up to chance.

“I think most of us feel that our conference tournament is
wide open,” Amaker said. “If the kids can start to
believe and start playing to win (instead of) not to lose, they
will have a good chance.”

“I’m packing for the whole weekend,” said
sophomore Lester Abram.

Last year’s trip to the Big Ten Tournament ended well
before the weekend was over. On the eve of the Wolverines’
quarterfinal contest against Indiana, guard Daniel Horton suffered
an ankle injury in practice.

With Horton far from full strength, Michigan’s season
ended in a loss to the Hoosiers.

That experience alone has Horton, who had one of his best
performances of the season in Michigan’s win over
Northwestern last Saturday, itching to get another crack at the
tournament title.

“I look at it as I didn’t really get a chance to
experience playing in a big game like that — I played, but I
wasn’t 100 percent,” said Horton. “My focus now
is to get prepared to play at a high level (against
Iowa).”

The Hawkeyes enter today’s game in the same position as
Michigan — likely needing two wins to garner NCAA Tournament
consideration.

Truthfully, the fact that the Hawkeyes are even being considered
for the Tournament is a tribute to the job they’ve done this
season. During the course of the year, Iowa lost its top two
centers, Jared Reiner and Sean Sonderleiter, to injury and personal
reasons, respectively.

In spite of that, the Hawkeyes have managed to secure a
first-round bye and will be tough opponents for the Wolverines.

“(Iowa coach) Steve (Alford) has his team playing very
well, and they are coming off a big win at Purdue,” Amaker
said. “They will be a very competitive and spirited
team.”

Regardless of the opponent, Amaker and the Wolverines are aware
that nothing less than a great showing in Indianapolis will keep
their NCAA Tournament bubble from bursting.

“Getting into the NCAA Tournament would be a monumental
step for our program,” Amaker said. “For our players,
this is what you play for. When you start the year, your dream is
to play in the postseason.”

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