CHICAGO – Don’t get excited just yet.
The Michigan men’s basketball team may have been beaten Minnesota, but one Big Ten Tournament win doth not an NCAA Tournament berth make.
If the Wolverines want a chance to be called on Selection Sunday, they have to take care of business this afternoon against No. 1 Ohio State at the United Center.
Even then, Michigan’s tournament chances are slim with teams like Butler, Old Dominion and Drexel failing to win their conference tournament championships and possibly taking away at-large bids from the Wolverines.
And if yesterday’s game was any indication, Michigan may be in a lot of trouble.
The Wolverines played just as lethargic as the lazy crowd that slowly filed in over the course of the game.
Twenty-seven percent shooting from the floor.
Fifteen turnovers to 10 assists.
And one really ugly basketball game.
Sure, the Wolverines live to see another day. But if Michigan is trying to save its NCAA
Tournament chances, the Minnesota game was the equivalent of placing a band-aid on a gaping wound.
Following the Wolverines’ ugliest performance of the year (which is saying a lot considering some of the poor efforts this season), they should have just one thought in mind now: Bring on the Buckeyes.
Beating the Gophers was great. Avenging an embarrassing opening-round loss from last season is even better. Neither will feel as good as slaying the giant of the Big Ten this afternoon. And you know what, it just might happen.
Michigan has played Ohio State close in both of its games this season. On the road, the Wolverines held their own and spared their fans the anticipated embarrassment of a nationally-televised pummeling. At Crisler Arena on Saturday, Michigan had the game won until the final four minutes sunk its upset hopes.
Why can’t the third time be a charm?
People may think it’s a stretch. The Wolverines lost at Crisler despite the fact that Ohio State didn’t look like it was trying for half of the game. And even with the possibility of neutral fans rooting for the underdog, nothing can be as loud and electric as Crisler Arena was a week ago.
But it’s tournament time, and one should never underestimate a senior in his last conference tournament.
Last season, Gerry McNamara willed Syracuse to a Big East Tournament title. Without it, the Orange might have been stuck watching the NCAA Tournament from home.
Point guard Dion Harris, or fellow seniors center Courtney Sims and forward Brent Petway, could become Michigan’s version of McNamara. None of them burned up the stat sheet yesterday, but their individual efforts helped the Wolverines slip past the Gophers.
Harris struggled from the floor, but was consistent from the free throw line (6-for-6) and
led the team with 14 points.
Sims had just four points, but he grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
And Petway offered the best of both worlds. He scored eight points and brought down five rebounds himself.
Any one of them can have a great game. Or all of them can have just a good game. Either way, when any or all of the seniors are playing well, the Wolverines have a chance to win.
This afternoon they may just be hungry enough to beat the Buckeyes.
And that will get them one game closer to the NCAA Tournament.
Then maybe, just maybe, we’ll have something to get excited about.
– Bosch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.