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NCAA Tournament: Michigan focused on winning, moving forward despite Big Ten struggles

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The Wolverines are only worried about how they will fare moving forward.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Texas Southern at Michigan IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines came into the 2021 NCAA Tournament pegged as the No. 1 seed most likely to fall early given how vulnerable they appeared down the stretch. That has not happened yet because Illinois — the conference’s other No. 1 seed and a national title contender — was unable to make it out of the opening weekend.

Illinois getting popped early has become the rallying cry for people who believe that the conference was overrated this year. It was the cherry on top of a weekend that also saw Ohio State and Purdue get upset by double-digit seeds. The Wolverines are now under the microscope as the team everyone is interested in piling on.

“I’m just trying to win, man,” sophomore wing Franz Wagner told the media on Sunday night. “Nobody knows who is going to win and who is not. You can see that in these first couple of days of the tournament. Just excited to go out there and play. Whatever happens, happens. As long as you give it your all, you can live with the results.

“Definitely could’ve performed better, I think,” he continued on the conference’s struggles. “That’s what we expected, right? It’s a tournament where everybody can lose at any point. Teams are playing for their seasons, so not really surprised that some teams have fallen. Definitely would’ve loved to see more Big Ten teams win but that’s how it goes.”

Michigan has nothing to do but take care of its own business and is still working to replace the injured Isaiah Livers. Wagner does not believe the team has played to its potential to this point without him.

“No, we lost one of the games and even the last game we didn’t finish out the way we should’ve,” he said. “I’m not going to give everything away. I think defensively we could’ve done some things better and definitely execute on offense a little better for sure. In this tournament, it’s just trying to get a win and advance to the next round. My mindset is just to go out there and have one more point than the other team.”

Wagner does not believe the team is still adjusting to life without Livers and says that they simply need to play better.

“Everybody has to step up their game,” he said. “Including me, obviously. Like I said, people are really quick to judge a game by looking at box scores and stuff like that. I think there’s more to it. I’m just trying to do everything I can to help this team win. Like I said, if that’s scoring, passing, rebounding, defending, whatever it is. I’m willing to do that and I think everybody else is, too. I think we’ve got a great team. We’re well-prepared for tomorrow and try to get a win tomorrow.”

Michigan takes on No. 8 seed LSU on Monday night from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The game is set for a 7:10 p.m. ET tipoff and will be broadcast via CBS.