Just two weeks ago, it was impossible to imagine that the Michigan men’s basketball team would soon be the hottest squad in the Big Ten.
But the Wolverines (4-9 Big Ten, 8-17 overall) have won three straight games, and now that’s exactly what they are. Thanks to Purdue’s loss at Indiana Tuesday, Michigan’s win streak is currently the longest in the conference.
Some, including Michigan coach John Beilein, aren’t sure what to make of it.
“Is that what it is? Really?” Beilein said at his press conference yesterday.
Surprised or not, Beilein understands basking in the glow of the first extended period of success all season is the last thing the Wolverines should do heading into tonight’s showdown at Minnesota.
“We cannot accept anything that has happened right now,” Beilein said. “I think four wins in the Big Ten was not a goal to get (at the beginning of the season). But when we had one win in the Big Ten, four wins seemed like a pretty good goal. We just have to keep moving on.”
But before the team can move up the Big Ten standings, it must show the wins over Penn State, Iowa and Ohio State weren’t flash-in-the-pan performances.
In those games, freshman guard Manny Harris was sensational, averaging 21 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. But Harris has been surprisingly consistent all season.
The real reason behind the recent surge has been the play of everyone besides Harris. For the first time all year, the Wolverines are getting contributions from more than just their two leading scorers.
In its upset of the Buckeyes Sunday at Crisler Arena, Michigan got 22 points from sophomore DeShawn Sims, eight from freshman Kelvin Grady and seven each from senior David Merritt and redshirt freshman Anthony Wright. Harris wasn’t exactly held in check, either, scoring a career-high 27 points.
“I always felt we were a pretty good team,” Sims said. “But it was hard to show it because everybody wasn’t showing their best efforts at the same time.”
The last time the Gophers and Wolverines squared off, on Jan. 31, was one of Michigan’s worst showings of the season. After the disappointing 77-65 loss, Harris called a players-only meeting to address the team’s struggles.
A close loss at Ohio State and three straight wins later, and that meeting has materialized as the turning point in the season.
“We’re hungry now, like we should have been since the beginning of the season,” Harris said.
Injury Update: Merritt’s surgery to repair a torn medial meniscus was a success, said Beilein. He said redshirt junior C.J. Lee should see more minutes tonight, because the team has just three guards available to play for the rest of the season.