With his playing days at Crisler Arena finished and with the Wolverines’ postseason hopes resting solely on an improbable run in the Big Ten Tournament, senior forward DeShawn Sims took some time yesterday to reflect on the past year for the Michigan basketball team.
And if the inconsistent Wolverines want to go anywhere in the tournament which starts this Thursday, they will need the usually reliable Sims to power them past a daunting list of foes, starting with a potential matchup Friday with No. 5 Ohio State should Michigan defeat Iowa in its first round game.
For Sims, it is a somber reality that his playing days in the Maize and Blue are coming to a close. But the senior still has the Big Ten Tournament squarely on his mind.
“I’m just going in to it thinking about playing Iowa. Getting my mind refreshed after Saturday’s loss,” Sims said.
The senior is second on the team in scoring, averaging 16.9 points per game this season, and was named to the second team All-Big Ten. Other than Michigan’s win over Connecticut, the Wolverines have lost each time Sims has scored fewer than 12 points this season.
For Sims, the disappointment began early in the season. After Michigan started as the nation’s 15th-ranked team, the Wolverines’ goals were dashed as their many flaws were revealed. At the Old Spice Tournament in Orlando, Fla., Michigan fell to both unranked Marquette and Alabama, its first losses of the season.
“We went into it playing some teams that weren’t really good and it just exposed a lot of our weaknesses and it was kind of hard to bounce back from it,” Sims said.
From there, the season spiraled downward with key losses down the stretch in the Big Ten regular season, with a one point loss to Michigan State at home and two key losses to Wisconsin.
Despite the disappointment, Sims still shined. The senior led the Wolverines with 28 points in Michigan’s upset win over then-15th-ranked Ohio State and nearly propelled Michigan past Michigan State in Ann Arbor before his buzzer-beating layup attempt rimmed out.
But with the Big Ten Tournament just two days away, Sims and his teammates know that they really have nothing to lose.
Michigan coach John Beilein announced this week that the team would not participate in the College Basketball Invitation, which selects teams after the NCAA Tournament and NIT and was Michigan’s only likely postseason destination.
That being the case, Sims and the Wolverines realize that it is all or nothing in Indianapolis. After a blowout 64-48 loss to No. 11 Michigan State, Michigan will once again have to try to rebound after a blow to its confidence.
“We’ve bounced back after some very disappointing losses this year, we’ve done it not consistently but we’ve bounced back,” Beilein said. “This is another one of those times when I hope we have a bounce back and that will be our only intention.”
While Sims realizes that his career at Michigan is in its twilight, he still is keeping optimistic about the Wolverines’ chances this weekend. And if Michigan has any chance to pull an improbable comeback, it will need its senior leader to loosen up the team for tough run.
“Once you know that you have to put it all on the line and you don’t have another game, it’s easier to play that way,” Sims said. “We knew had another game after Michigan State and another game after Minnesota. If you know you get another chance you kind of take it for granted but if you know there’s not another chance you put it all out there.”