One year ago, Michigan Basketball went on a four game tear in the Big Ten Tournament capped off by cutting down the nets. The adversity of a plane crash, and the memories of victory are fresh in the minds of players and fans alike. Although Michigan is without three key members of that team, the similarities are tough to ignore.
This year’s tournament will have a much different look. Big Ten commissioner, Jim Delaney, has taken a lot of heat moving the tourney a week early in New York City — not exactly the geographic hot bed for the Big Ten. It shouldn’t take long for fans to be reminded that it is still a special event and with all due respect to Chicago’s United Center and Indy’s Bankers Life Fieldhouse… The mecca that is Madison Square Garden is a different animal.
Michigan’s journey for a repeat tips off Thursday afternoon against the winner of Illinois vs. Iowa. If there’s one thing that is a guarantee in college basketball, it’s that nothing is guaranteed especially in March. Proceed with Caution — but neither Iowa or Illinois should offer too much resistance for Michigan with both teams combining for only 8 Big Ten wins on the season.
The real party gets started Friday afternoon when Michigan will square off against Nebraska — a team that got the best of the Wolverines in their only meeting of the season. It should be noted that playing your third game in six days after traveling 700+ miles to Lincoln, Nebraska isn’t the easiest thing… and Michigan found that out the hard way.
The Huskers were able to puzzle Beilein’s crew defensively by switching all ball screens, often dropping into a 2-3 zone defense. Michigan never got off the bus shooting only four of 18 from three point land. With the trio of Duncan Robinson, Jordan Poole, and MAAR all ripping the nets as of late, this meeting should be a much different story. Keep an eye out for All Big Ten performer, James Palmer, who averages 17 points and 4 rebounds on the year.
If Michigan is fortunate enough to beat Nebraska, Michigan State will await on semi-final Saturday (assuming they beat the winner of Maryland vs. Wisconsin). As if Michigan vs. MSU needs an intro, we will give it to you anyway. MSU’s last loss came at the hands of their hated rivals on January 13th — The revenge factor may play a role, but then again, Miles Bridges also said Michigan isn’t a tough team after the loss. There is plenty fuel to the fire on both sides.
Despite winning 12 in a row, Tom Izzo has his team skating on thin ice winning 7 of their last 9 games by an average of only 5 points. It is awfully tough to beat a team as talented as Michigan State twice in one season, but I’m not sleeping on Michigan in this one.
Bracketology is far from a perfect science. For what it’s worth, Michigan has been seeded anywhere from a 3 seed to a 6 seed in most recent bracket projections. Much like another title won’t guarantee success in the big dance, an early exit won’t spell doom to Michigan’s season either. Buckle up, grab your popcorn… and enjoy the show!