The Michigan Wolverines men’s basketball team got their first win in a month against a down on their luck Maryland team. After defeating the Terrapins at home 83-64, the Wolverines improved to 8-7 on the season with a 2-3 record in conference play.
The Wolverines performed a lot more like our preseason expectations against Maryland. While they are the bottom of the conference, it still begs the question: is this the turnaround we have been waiting for? Getting a win in conference is definitely an excellent confidence booster for this team, but there is still a lot of work to be done. If anyone knows that, it’s them, and they’ll be eyeing Indiana as the next step to achieving their season goals. Their win against the Terrapins could kickstart a turnaround, but that won’t be officially determined until Sunday at the earliest.
Indiana is currently sixth in the conference with an undefeated home record. The Hoosiers are currently 14-4 with a 5-3 record in conference. In contrast, Michigan is 1-4 on the road this year and 2-3 in conference play. Do the Wolverines have what it takes to take down a hot team?
The Hoosiers are coming off an upset rivalry win over No. 4 Purdue and will surely look to defend their perfect home court record. However, this game has the potential to change the narrative for Michigan’s season. What would it mean for the Wolverines should they disrupt Indiana’s 12-0 record at home? If Michigan is unable to come away with a win on Sunday, where would it leave it in conference and tournament projections?
With other Big Ten teams stunning the top of the conference with upset wins, like Northwestern over MSU and Rutgers over Purdue, I think Michigan is still capable of making a name for itself in the Big Ten. The Wolverines have played the fewest games in conference, only able to play five games in comparison to the 7-8 their conference-mates have played so far. Michigan had to postpone two crucial games against Purdue and Michigan State, which could have altered their current standings significantly depending on how those games went.
Michigan wasn’t able to come away with any wins over the last four weeks, a clear repercussion from playing in a pandemic and down a full roster. What was most promising about their performance against Maryland was that they didn’t falter even when Maryland gained momentum. While Michigan’s defense lagged for most of the second half, it didn’t let the Terrapins take advantage of any slumps they might have had. That mental fortitude is a massive improvement over their past performances, specifically its 12-point lead over UCF with 16 minutes left in the game turning into a 14-point loss.
This improvement could mean they are trying to turn a corner on their season, but that was one game against a subpar Maryland team. There will and should be some hesitancy regarding Michigan’s ability to turn the season around, but I think it’s safe to say Michigan still has not met its full potential. Once Michigan starts producing more wins, it will build up the mutual confidence both it and the fanbase need to finish out the season strong.
Michigan isn’t inherently a bad team. If the Wolverines manage to win a majority of their remaining games, with hindsight, seven losses really isn’t terrible. Granted, getting to a point where they would earn a tournament bid is still up in the air, but I think they are making the necessary steps to get there. While non-conference play left a lot of questions regarding how Michigan would fare against the broader DI competition, they are still a team that is projected to squeak in and make an appearance in the tournament. Where do you think Michigan will fall amongst the tournament hopefuls by the end of the regular season? What needs to happen for Michigan to go dancing for the sixth* season in a row? (*2020 being canceled)
I think getting Michigan back into the tournament starts with a nice road win on Sunday. Indiana will be tough, but if Michigan can get over that proverbial hump, they’ll have the confidence to take down the rest of the Big Ten in their path. There are three games left in January for the Wolverines, of course barring any health issues from themselves or their opponents.
Michigan got the ball rolling against Maryland, and getting out of January with some solid wins against Indiana, Northwestern, and Michigan State will be just the thing to get them on the path to a double bye come March. Weirder things have happened before in this conference and Michigan is fully capable of causing some havoc. Can Michigan come away with another win this week? What will they have to do to ensure that win? Share with us your thoughts in the comments below!
The Wolverines take on the Hoosiers Sunday at 3:30 p.m. on CBS.