The Michigan basketball team realizes that its window of
opportunity to earn an NCAA Tournament bid is rapidly closing.

Julie Pannuto
Junior Bernard Robinson and the Wolverines are looking to take better care of the ball throughout the remainder of the season. (DANNY MOLOSHOK/Daily)

Currently on a two-game losing streak, the team has suffered
from inconsistency since the Big Ten season began. And that
inconsistency seems to be at an all-time high when the Wolverines
hit the road, where they have won just one of their five conference
games.

Luckily for Michigan, it returns home to Crisler Arena for its
next four games, beginning tomorrow with Penn State.

“We have to take care of our home court and win these four
games if we want to have a shot at making the (NCAA)
Tournament,” freshman guard Dion Harris said. “And we
all want to have a shot.”

The sense of urgency in the upcoming homestand is prevalent
among Wolverines, especially senior Bernard Robinson. Robinson has
been around long enough to know the difference between important
games and “must-win” games. And he knows the
significance of these home games.

“We know that this stretch right here is the most
important stretch of the season,” the 6-foot-6 wing said.
“We can’t win one, (then) lose one. There’s no
room for mistakes. We gotta take it like our life is on the
line.”

Michigan’s NCAA Tournament life may be on the line. In a
year when many college basketball analysts and fans view the Big
Ten as a weaker conference, many expect just four or five Big Ten
teams to earn bids to the Big Dance.

Currently, Michigan (4-6 Big Ten, 13-8 overall) sits eighth in
the conference — one spot behind perennial cellar-dweller
Northwestern (6-5, 11-11), and barely above Ohio State (3-7,
11-12), Penn State (3-7, 9-12) and Minnesota (1-10, 9-14).

But the Wolverines are still clinging to their hopes of earning
a tournament bid. And a path to that bid would have to include
eliminating the inconsistency that has plagued them throughout the
conference season — something that has stemmed from turnovers
and poor shot selection.

Every Michigan player has struggled with turning the ball over,
as the team combined for 21 giveaways against Iowa on Saturday.
Seven different players turned the ball over two or more times in
the 69-61 loss.

“Everything is contagious in the game of basketball”
Robinson said. “One person turns it over, and then two people
turn it over. The next thing you know, the whole team turns it
over.”

Robinson also said the team needs to work on stopping
opponents’ runs before they get out of hand, which he
believes can be done by communicating more on defense and staying
calm on offense — especially later in the game.

“When the second half comes, we seem to do things that we
aren’t used to,” he said.

Life’s a beach: The Athletic Department and the
Maize Rage have teamed up to give students a chance to relax at the
beach during tomorrow’s game against Penn State.

Well, not exactly. But the two organizations have organized a
“Hawaiian Night” theme for the game, to give students a
leisurely break from studying for midterms. Students are encouraged
to wear hats, sandals, shorts or any other beach-related items to
the game.

The Maize Rage organized a similar event for the Penn State game
two years ago, according to Peter Lund, head of the
organization.

“It was an 11 a.m. game on the weekend, and (the Athletic
Department) wanted to do something a little more exciting,”
Lund said of the game two years ago. “A lot of people have
exams this week, so for the people who come out to the game, there
will be a little more activity and fun for them.”

The Maize Rage is also organizing a trip to Northwestern for
Michigan’s game against the Wildcats on March 6 or 7 (the
date of the game will be announced by CBS).

The cost of a ticket is $20, and round-trip bus transportation
is free, thanks to a donation made by coach Tommy Amaker. This is
the second-straight year that Amaker has arranged for buses for the
Maize Rage trip to Northwestern.

Students can sign up for the trip at Crisler before the game
tomorrow or online at maizerage.org.

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