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Michigan looks for three straight wins on Wednesday as Northwestern visits

The Wolverines hope to move above .500 in Big Ten play.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Indiana Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

After convincing wins in back-to-back games against Maryland and Indiana, the Michigan Wolverines are finally trending in the right direction. Michigan has a great opportunity to get above .500 in conference play on Wednesday as the Northwestern Wildcats come to Ann Arbor.

While Northwestern is near the bottom of the Big Ten rankings, it has been very competitive, and no wins are going to come easy in conference play this year. The Wildcats have kept the majority of their games close, and even pulled off a win at Michigan State earlier this season.

“They’re a good team,” assistant coach Saddi Washington told the media on Tuesday. “Their record does not reflect the kind of team that they are. If you look at the games that they’ve been in and the games that they’ve lost, it’s been all single digit games except for the last one against Purdue. They’ve got a three-headed monster with Nance, and Buie, and Audige. Even their post play with Young, those guys, that’s a veteran team. I think seven of their nine guys are Juniors or Seniors so they understand how to play in this league, how to win games in this league.”

Two things Northwestern do particularly well are take care of the basketball and force turnovers. The Wildcats rank first in the conference in assist/turnover ratio and are ranked second behind only Iowa in turnover margin.

“I think the best part of them that gives them the best opportunity to win is that they don’t turn the ball over,” Washington said. “They’re one of the best teams in the country in terms of their turnover percentage, so they make you defend.”

Nonetheless, this is a game Michigan should win and, frankly, has to win. There can’t be a let down on Wednesday. When vying for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, you can’t drop home games to teams ranked near the bottom of the conference, and the Wolverines have already done that once when they lost to Minnesota. So Michigan isn’t taking Northwestern lightly, to say the least.

“You respect every opponent,” Washington said. “We’ve watched enough film on them to understand and emphasize enough that this team is good. I mean, they beat Michigan State at Michigan State, without one of their best players, so if that doesn’t resonate with you, then I don’t know what you’re looking at. This is the Big Ten. There are no off nights in this league. That’s the approach that we have, that’s the approach that coach Juwan expects from his players, and we’re going to come in and battle and do our best tomorrow night.”

Northwestern at Michigan tips at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. You can catch the game on Big Ten Network.