The Michigan Wolverines’ basketball season has had a lot of ups and downs, but maybe the highest moment came when they wiped the floors of the Crisler Center with their in-state rivals, the Michigan State Spartans, Tuesday night in a stellar 87-70 victory.
Many said if the Wolverines could pull off two wins in their last three games, they would be a lock for the NCAA Tournament. A blowout Quad 2 win over MSU and a potential Quad 1 victory over Iowa or Ohio State would surely be enough for a squad that has had the eighth most difficult schedule in the NCAA, according to teamrankings.com.
They get the chance to seal the deal against a team they have already beaten this season, the No. 24 Iowa Hawkeyes, on Thursday night. Let’s dive into the matchup of the final game in Ann Arbor this season.
Michigan Wolverines (16-12, 10-8) vs. No. 24 Iowa Hawkeyes (21-8, 11-7)
Date & Time: Thursday, March 3, 9 p.m.
Location: Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Big Ten Standings: MICH t-7th, Iowa t-4th
What is absolutely crazy about this game is Michigan could be tied with five teams in the Big Ten at 11-8. That would be good enough for fourth place in the Big Ten with only one game to go in the regular season. Michigan State would have to beat Ohio State right before this game, and a Michigan win over Iowa would lock up those four teams and Rutgers for fourth place with a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament on the line.
According to the Big Ten, seeding is determined by
- Results of head-to-head competition
- Each team’s record vs the team occupying the position in the final regular-season standings (or in the case of a tie for the championship, the next highest position in the regular-season standings), continuing down through the standings until one team gains an advantage.
- Won-loss percentage of all Division I opponents.
- A coin flip
While it seems a bit farfetched to think this will actually get done, it had zero iota of thought among Michigan fans just a few short weeks ago. The turnaround this team has had in the last few weeks, and now without their head coach on the sidelines, has been nothing short of remarkable.
Iowa’s a tough team and its last showing against Michigan wasn’t its best performance. If not for a late comeback, the Wolverines would have won the game by double-digits. It shows the resiliency of this Hawkeye squad that has a ton of talent, but it just wasn’t enough in the mid-February matchup that resulted in an 84-79 Michigan win in Iowa City.
Iowa has won four straight since the loss to Michigan, and none of the games have been close. In fact, each win has come by double-digits and that includes blowout wins over Ohio State and Michigan State.
The man everyone in the conference is trying to slow down is Keegan Murray. The 6-foot-8 sophomore is the Big Ten’s leading scorer, averaging 23.3 points per game, and is third in rebounding with 8.6 a game. He had 23 points and seven boards the last time these two met, but he was only 9-for-23 from the floor. A mixture of Moussa Diabate and Hunter Dickinson gave Murray some trouble.
On the offensive end, Diabate was diabolical. He had easily the best game of his young career scoring 28 points on an efficient 12-of-15 shooting. His play was a huge reason the Wolverines were able to keep up with the No. 1 scoring offense in the Big Ten for so long. Especially as the squad only shot 4-of-20 from behind the arc.
If the Wolverines shoot well, I like their chances. They have to come out with that same heat they had in the win over Michigan State. On senior night, with several of these guys playing potentially their last game at the Crisler Center, they have plenty of reasons to be amped up for this matchup with an NCAA Tournament spot on the line.