A 1-3 start to conference play is not how Michigan envisioned 2017 beginning, but in hindsight it might have been a blessing in disguise. A bad loss in Champaign in mid-January was frustrating, but it was the post-game comments that left the biggest mark. Illinois senior Maverick Morgan called the Wolverines a “traditionally a white collar team” when breaking down the win, something that understandably did not sit well in the opposing locker room.
Michigan used this comment as motivation for their turnaround, getting revenge 10 days later in Ann Arbor. However, the fury did not stop there- the Wolverines went on to win nine of their next 14 games after their loss to the Illini and essentially locked up an NCAA Tournament bid along the way.
Thursday’s matchup comes with a little breathing room; even with a loss, Michigan will hear their named called on Selection Sunday. But moving onto the next round and getting another chance to beat Purdue could be extremely valuable for the Wolverines, who would probably prefer avoiding an 8 or 9 seed and the inevitable showdown with a 1 seed two days later that comes along with it.
For Illinois, the margin of error is much slimmer. They almost certainly need a pair of wins in the Big Ten Tournament, and probably could use even more if they hope to earn a bid into the Big Dance. Michigan and their blue-collar attitude will have a shot to end their year on Thursday.
How to Watch
Date: March 9, 2017
Location: Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. (Big Ten Tournament Second Round)
Tipoff: 12:20 p.m. ET
Television: Big Ten Network
Radio: Michigan/IMG Sports Network (for a list of affiliates, click here)