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Analyzing the rest of Michigan basketball’s schedule

Taking a look at the looming schedule after the COVID pause.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Purdue Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) shut down all University of Michigan athletic programs for two weeks after five confirmed cases of a new strain of COVID-19 were reported within the athletic department. The new strain, B.1.1.7, was allegedly carried back from the U.K. by a Michigan athlete. The shutdown affects all of Michigan athletics including men’s and women’s basketball as well as hockey.

With the men’s basketball program coming off a convincing victory over Purdue, it will be tough for Juwan Howard and the Wolverines to not lose any momentum.

Shutting down for two weeks means Michigan will have to postpone the already rescheduled game against Penn St. (1/27) along with upcoming matchups against Indiana (1/30), at Northwestern (2/3), and vs. Michigan St. (2/6). Here is how Michigan will jump back into the thick of the schedule:

  • 2/11: vs No. 19 Illinois
  • 2/14: @ No. 14 Wisconsin
  • 2/18: vs Rutgers
  • 2/21: @ No. 13 Ohio St.
  • 2/27: @ Indiana
  • 3/4: vs No. 7 Iowa
  • 3/7: @ Michigan St.
  • 3/10-3/14: Big Ten Tournament at the United Center in Chicago

There is certainly no rest for the weary. The Wolverines jump back into it against an underrated Illinois team, ranked eighth by both KenPom and the NET rankings. It will be our first look at the Kofi Cockburn vs. Hunter Dickinson showdown in the paint.

Next, Michigan travels to Madison, Wisconsin and the suddenly not invincible Kohl Center. The Badgers have already lost twice at home this year (12/28 vs Maryland and this past Saturday vs Ohio St.) and are undoubtedly missing fans in the stands and their home court advantage.

Michigan then returns home to face a scuffling Rutgers team that had lost five straight prior to righting the ship on Sunday at Indiana. Still a top 50 team according to every major ranking site, Ron Harper Jr. and company have had their struggles in Big Ten play.

On the 21st, the Wolverines travel to Columbus to get their first look at the Buckeyes. Chris Holtmann, arguably Juwan Howard’s stiffest competition for Big Ten Coach of the Year, has his squad humming having won four of their last five with big wins at Rutgers, at Illinois and at Wisconsin.

The Wolverines stay on the road to face Indiana at Assembly Hall, a future NCAA tournament location. IU has bounced back and forth all season, most recently crushing No. 4 Iowa but then following that up with a loss at home against Rutgers.

Luka Garza and Iowa then loom, sporting the nation’s best offense but the Big Ten’s worst defense. It will be fascinating to see how Austin Davis, Hunter Dickinson and Brandon Johns Jr. attempt to bottle up the front-runner for the AP Player of the Year.

Lastly, Michigan travels to the Breslin Center to face Tom Izzo and the Spartans. Having struggled mightily of late, the Spartans have lost four of their last six. However, you can never count them out in a rivalry game.

There is certainly a chance that some, if not all, of the postponed games could be rescheduled in the next month and a half. However, the gaps are far and few between. With the meat of the schedule coming directly after the two week break, Juwan Howard certainly has his work cut out for him in order to keep the team sharp and the momentum rolling in these unprecedented times. As of right now, it’s Michigan’s conference to lose.