The regular season has come to a close on somewhat of a sour note after losing to Michigan State for the second time this year. The Wolverines (26-5) are heading to Chicago for the Big Ten Tournament as the three seed after going 15-5 in the league. After starting the season off with 17 straight wins, three of their five losses have come in the last month.
The AP No. 10 ranked Wolverines will play Friday night against Iowa or the winner of Northwestern and Illinois.
Do they have what it takes to win the Big Ten Tournament?
Michigan has stumbled on the road at Wisconsin, Iowa and Penn State earlier this year, as well as home and away to Michigan State. This is a deep league this year, like most years, but coach Beilein has proven over the years he can take a new group of talented players deep by finding ways to win by overcoming adversity.
There are a few concerns that could prevent them from playing next Sunday:
1. Avoid the offensive slumps
This is the biggest issue in my opinion. Both losses to Michigan State were very similar in that a period of time went by where little-to-no offense allowed the Spartans to go on a run and pull away. Michigan allowed a 20-2 run on Saturday and didn’t have enough in the end to overcome that deficit.
Teams under Beilein in the past have clawed their way through games despite poor offensive showings. This team hasn’t really been able to do that up to this point.
2. Status of Charles Matthews
Another concern is Matthews staying on the bench, who has contributed big minutes and points, averaging 12.8 in 28 games. He was a game time-decision on Saturday but never saw the floor. Michigan would benefit greatly from him being back out there.
3. The big guys must stay on the court and out of foul trouble
Michigan has a talented defense, especially thanks to one of the most improved players in the league — Jon Teske.
In their losses, foul trouble has kept guys on the bench. It happened to Teske against Iowa and it happened to Ignas Brazdeikis against Penn State and Michigan State. This has been a problem in most of Michigan’s losses, so keeping these vital players on the floor is, obviously, a necessity.
4. Jordan Poole must move around
The offense also went in their slump when Jordan Poole wasn’t moving around, which the commentators also mentioned against Michigan State. This is something to keep an eye out for this weekend and how they will attack on offense. He’s averaging 13 points per game, and is one that must continue this heading to the postseason.
5. The defense must come to play
Michigan knows how to shut down opponents, and proved that in wins over Purdue, Villanova and North Carolina. The Wolverines allow a Big Ten-best 58.8 points per game, so we know they can defend as well as anyone in the country. But down the stretch, the defense has struggled, giving up 70 or more points in three of their last four games.
They have talent on both sides, but will need to execute opportunities when they have the chance to pull away. It will also depend on the matchups and if anyone pulls an upset over a team like Purdue or Michigan State. They have a shot at making noise this weekend if some of these issues are minimal and can find some
What are your thoughts? Do they have what it takes to win in Chicago?
Follow on Twitter: @DavidRNoe/@MaizenBrew