Could the Wolverines make the NCAA tournament? Sure, yeah, they could. Could the season steadily melt down into a ball of flames? Well, that’s also on the table, unfortunately.
Regardless, tonight will be an important test for a Michigan team that’s been embattled by frustrated fans - all season long but especially in the past week - and also struggled with its toughness and resiliency. (That’s a bad combination, obviously.) The Spartans are 14-9 (6-4) but have to travel to the Crisler Center this time after barely getting out of Breslin with a win on January 29th. The game will be on ESPN at 9 PM.
The Wolverines will be looking for Derrick Walton to carry them forward, as the senior has been averaging 23.3 points over his last three and 14.0 overall, which leads the team. The Spartans collectively are shooting 47.8% and 39.0%, which rank third and second in the conference, while Michigan is last in field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage defense.
Still, somehow they have to find a way, and it comes down to fixing the big problems. Rebounding. Toughness. Passing the ball.
“Complaining about our circumstances won’t help,” said Derrick Walton. “You hate that they’re this way but everybody’s got something going on at this time of year, nothing’s perfect. ... I’m more excited. I think it makes a better story (once we come back).”
Not really, actually, but okay. This season has been a rough roller coaster ride for Michigan fans, but at least with a win against their rival, and some better effort and toughness, they could salvage some of their pride. Not getting swept by the Spartans would mean a lot, regardless of the long-term ramifications.
“We’ve got a lot more opportunities to make our dreams reality,” said Walton. “I’m more focused on ... going forward than the circumstance we are (in) right now.”