Since day one of the Michigan women’s basketball season, the Wolverines have instilled the message of taking it one day at a time.

That mindset is important in keeping a team from getting too far ahead of itself. But with just two games remaining in Michigan’s season, it will be hard not to. The Wolverines play No. 22 Purdue on Thursday at Crisler Center and then travel to Iowa City to play the Hawkeyes on Sunday.

In the past month, Michigan has gone 3-4. The only upside of the Wolverines sub-par February record is their impressive road win against then-No. 13 Nebraska.

But even after the struggles, Michigan is coming off a dominant win over Indiana on Sunday. That should boost the Wolverines’ confidence, something that will be important in the next couple of weeks.

“There are two games left,” said Michigan coach Kevin Borseth. “Who knows? Right now, there’s so much jockeying (that’s) going to go on it’ll blow your mind. It’s like winning the lottery. If you could pick out who was going to beat who and be absolutely correct in every game that’s going to happen between now and then, my bet is you’d probably be wrong.”

Though Penn State and Ohio State have taken command of the conference, the competition for the three other bye bids for the first round of the conference tournament is a five-horse race, Michigan included. That’s why the final regular-season games will be crucial.

Last year, the Wolverines split their final two games of the season, ending with a No. 3 seed and a bye in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. They were defeated by bottom-dwelling Illinois in the second round, though — a main reason they missed out on the NCAA Tournament.

Just like last season’s loss to Illinois, upsets have been a common theme during conference play this year. No team is ever safe, especially on the road, and Borseth understands this.

“I just think a lot of upsets in the conference have happened during the course of the year,” Borseth said. “A lot of teams (late in the season) are determined to better themselves in the (Big Ten) Tournament, get in the national tournament or just better their season.”

Michigan has been on both ends of the upset-train this season. It defeated then-No. 8 Ohio State at home on Jan. 7, but the team also lost to second-to-last-place Wisconsin in Madison on Jan. 30.

Junior center Rachel Sheffer knows that the Wolverines need to use their momentum from their last victory to “keep pushing forward.” If Michigan is to avoid another late-season collapse like the one they suffered last year, Sheffer and senior Courtney Boylan will need to continue their impressive play.

Beyond the obvious importance of winning at least one of the remaining two games, the Wolverines also come into the final stretch with 19 wins. Michigan hasn’t reached the 20-win mark since Borseth arrived in Ann Arbor in 2007.

“We need one more (win) to get 20 and that was a big goal for us starting the year, to just get 20 wins and keep moving forward,” Sheffer said.

Sheffer, Boylan, senior Carmen Reynolds and junior Jenny Ryan are the leading upperclassmen for Michigan. They have carried the team in times of trouble this season, but when they’ve struggled, the Wolverines have struggled. Though Borseth calls Michigan an equal-opportunity offense, if those four players aren’t producing, the Wolverines tend to falter.

Whether they’re playing the ranked Boilermakers at home or traveling to Iowa, both games will seriously test Michigan. But a win in either game will make a strong statement to the NCAA Selection Committee.

That committee holds the Wolverines’ postseason fate in its hands, and though the team set a 20-win season as a goal, Michigan’s ultimate goal is to make its first NCAA Tournament in 12 years. With a win against either Purdue or the Hawkeyes, the Wolverines could kill two birds with one stone and achieve both goals.

“It’ll be good, too, to get another signature win (this week), hopefully for the NCAA (Tournament) and heading into the Big Ten Tournament,” Boylan said. “But like Rachel said, getting to 20 wins was a goal of ours when the season started.”

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