With its 69-60 victory over Colorado on Wednesday, the Michigan men’s basketball team cleared the way for a trip to New York next week for an appearance in the semifinals of the Preseason NIT. So let the celebration begin.
Now quit celebrating.
Before Michigan can concentrate on Arizona, it has some business to attend to tonight at Crisler Arena.
“Everyone now wants to talk about next week,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “We have a game Friday. It’s important that we channel our focus in the right direction.”
Sacramento State is making the trip out to Ann Arbor, and if the Hornets catch the Wolverines dreaming about Thanksgiving break on the East Coast, they just might make a game of it.
“We can’t look to New York yet,” sophomore Brent Petway said. “We’ve got Sacramento State so if we look to New York and come back and our heads aren’t in it, Sacramento State can surprise us. We don’t want that to happen.”
The Hornets will open their regular season against Michigan. They won their only exhibition match of the year over Bethany College 72-45. Other than that, all their preseason practices have probably had the Wolverines in mind.
In contrast, Michigan will get just one day to concentrate on the Hornets.
“We knew we were going to have three games (this week) regardless of the outcome (on Wednesday),” Amaker said. “We knew it was going to be a tough turnaround for us, but I think our players would rather play than practice.”
Tonight’s game will be Michigan’s third in five days. It defeated Binghamton 59-46 on Monday before Wednesday’s victory over Colorado — both Preseason NIT matches.
Before the season, Michigan scheduled an opponent in between the second and third rounds of the NIT in case it was eliminated in the first or second round. Had Michigan not advanced past either Binghamton or Colorado, the next game on the schedule wouldn’t have been until Dec. 4, at home against Notre Dame. Something needed to fill the gap. Enter Sacramento State.
Daniel Horton is happy he has something to fill the time between now and the trip to New York City.
“I’m glad we’re not sitting around waiting,” the junior guard said. “We have a game that we have to get ready against another tough team.”
Sacramento State is a program on the upswing. It has steadily improved during head coach Jerome Jenkins’s four years. Although the Hornets lost their three leading scorers from last season, they are still expected to contend for the Big Sky Conference title. Last year, they finished tied for second.
“It’s easy to focus when you know a team can come in here and beat you,” Horton said. “Especially on your home court, you have to be focused. I think everybody’s going to put this NIT Tournament on the backburner for a second and get ready for Sacramento State.”