With two games remaining in the regular season, the Michigan
basketball team knows what it has to do.
And it also knows that, so far, it hasn’t done a very good
job at it.
The Wolverines will travel to Indiana and Northwestern this week
to play two must-win games. With a loss, Michigan will likely have
to win four games on consecutive days in Indianapolis at the Big
Ten Tournament in order to accomplish its biggest goal: hearing its
name called on Selection Sunday.
The problem with the Wolverines accomplishing such a feat is
that it would require them to double their road win total for the
season. Michigan is a dismal 2-6 in road games this year, and its
two victories were not exactly glowing.
The first came Thanksgiving weekend against Butler at Conseco
Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The contest was designated a road game
for Michigan despite the fact that it was away from Hinkel
Fieldhouse, the Bulldogs’ home arena. The Wolverines escaped
that game with a 61-60 overtime victory against a team that is now
No. 189 in Ratings Percentage Index rankings, according to
Michigan’s only conference victory — it’s 1-5
away from Crisler in Big Ten play — came against a 9-16 Penn
State team at the Bryce Jordan Center, which is known for its great
crowds at women’s games, not men’s.
“I think everyone has struggled on the road — it
hasn’t been just Michigan,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker
said. “I think sometimes it’s the timing of games, I
think it’s the placement of games, the way you catch your
One major reason the Wolverines were able to compile a 10-6
conference record last season was its 4-4 record outside of Ann
Arbor. Michigan started its conference schedule with wins at Ohio
State and Northwestern as part of its 13-game winning streak.
“That gave us the momentum and confidence that we could go
on the road and win, and we haven’t been able to have that
this year,” Amaker said.
This season’s conference road schedule had a much rockier
start at Michigan State and Wisconsin, two of the
conference’s more difficult places to play. The Wolverines
started well in both games, but succumbed to vast offensive
droughts and were unable to recover.
The two road losses that really hurt Michigan’s tournament
resume were back-to-back setbacks at Minnesota and Iowa.
Minnesota’s win marked its first Big Ten victory at the time
and the Golden Gophers are now ranked No. 166 by InsiderRPI. The
Wolverines held leads in both Minneapolis and Iowa City, but fell
apart in the second half.
“When we play at home, we stay together,” sophomore
guard Lester Abram said. “It seems like we understand that we
have to finish and we have support behind (us). On the road,
it’s just us.
“We have to pick up on each other, and we can’t rely
on the crowd to get us into it.”
Despite the Wolverines’ situation, the coaching staff is
not dwelling on the fact that they must do something they
haven’t achieved this season in order to make the NCAA
Tournament. Michigan’s just going to take each game the way
it knows how.
“For our players, being one of the younger teams around,
it’s important that we keep things concise and very limited
in terms of getting off-kilter or getting too far ahead or too far
in the past,” Amaker said.