The Michigan Wolverines basketball program is certainly skidding right now in their 2019-20 campaign. With three straight losses and six total in their last nine games, it is time for a rapid change of course for this Wolverines team. If Michigan is going to turn things around, now is the time it has to happen.
In a blink of an eye almost two-thirds of the season is now behind us and Michigan is certainly in decline ever since they left the Bahamas. That is in part to a seemingly minor but nagging injury that has kept star forward Isaiah Livers out for the last seven games. The Wolverines are 3-4 in those games with two of them coming against Presbyterian and UMass-Lowell. There is great hope that the Wolverines leading scorer on offense could return in the next couple of games as Coach Juwan Howard listed him day-to-day before the Minnesota game.
We have obviously seen the Wolverines succeed against some of the top teams in the country with a big win over Gonzaga and a close OT loss to Oregon in a nail-bitter. With more top teams on the way, the Wolverines will have to do whatever they can to replicate the success that they had in those early competitions.
Now that the Wolverines are coming into the heat of Big Ten play, it is time to put up or shut up based on their next few opponents who will likely help define this Michigan team. Three of the next five opponents are ranked, but two of those games will be played at the Crisler Center, and we have seen how difficult road teams have had it in the Big Ten this season.
The teams coming into Ann Arbor are No. 21 Illinois and No. 11 Michigan State who currently sit at the top of an extremely deep Big Ten Conference. If the Wolverines want to stay out of the murky depths, they will have to avenge their losses from earlier this season on their home turf.
Not to mention, the Wolverines will face their two biggest rivals in their next six games: the aforementioned Michigan State, and Ohio State. Wins against those two teams could be the perfect jolt that they need to reinstate the quality play that they had earlier in the season.
The other ranked opponent who recently found themselves in the Top-25 for the first time in years in the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Like most of the Big Ten, they have won a majority of their conference matchups at home, but have lost 3 of their 4 games on the road in Big Ten play. This game will be played at Madison Square Garden in New York, so although it will be labeled as neutral it is still closer to Rutgers’ home facilities. However, there is a potential that a majority of the crowd could be donning the maize and blue based on the Wolverines much larger fan base which should create a very interesting dynamic.
The other two games of their next six will unfortunately be on the road, but they are against the two teams that are struggling the most in the Big Ten Conference, and that is Northwestern and Nebraska. The two teams have a combined 13-24 record and only 3 wins in the Big Ten.
With Isaiah Livers potentially on the return soon and several marquee matchups on the way, it seems like this is the time for the Wolverines to strike if they want to turn around this losing streak, and return to their winning ways. There is obviously NCAA Tournament talent on this roster, but it is up to Coach Howard and his players to take that potential and turn it into results. The pressure is on, and if Michigan wants to see themselves dancing in March, there is no better time than the present to start working out those kinks and start rolling out some wins as the season quickly is coming to an end.