The Michigan Wolverines finished the season with a huge win against Ohio State on Sunday afternoon. They now enter the Big Ten Tournament as a No. 8 seed and play Indiana in the first round. With their status in the NCAA Tournament somewhat questionable at the moment, they need a strong showing in the Big Ten Tournament to prove their worth during March Madness.
With the Big Ten Tournament starting this week, the Wolverines will once again be looking for a historic run. As frustrating as this season has been, there is a team in Michigan’s recent past that entered the Big Ten Tournament in a similar standing. The Wolverines in the 2016-17 season finished the regular season 10-8 in conference, which earned them the No. 8 seed in the conference tourney.
After the infamous plane incident, they played their first game in practice jerseys and handed Illinois a 20-point loss. Michigan took down the Big Ten’s No. 1 seed Purdue, then defeating No. 4 Minnesota by seven points in the semifinals, and then blowing out No. 1 Wisconsin to become the lowest seeded team to win the conference tournament’s history.
Does this year’s team have what it takes to pull off a similar feat?
It’s easy to look back on that season because of how they made history, but that team also got off to a shaky start at the beginning of the Big Ten regular season. Michigan also split their games with MSU and dropped a loss to Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio State and Wisconsin in the regular season. Of its eight conference losses, only one of them was to a ranked opponent. Of Michigan’s nine conference losses this year, two were to unranked foe.
While the 2016-17 team didn’t have two games scheduled with Iowa, OSU and Wisconsin that year, they faced both Minnesota and Wisconsin again in the Big Ten Tournament, thus splitting games with them as well. While this is likely where their similarities end, as the 2016-17 team wasn’t a bubble team and had a program record of three’s made that year (350), who is to say this year’s squad couldn’t make their own magic?
Before the Big Ten Tournament even started, no one could have predicted Michigan could have pulled off the feat it did in 2017. The Wolverine4s strung together four solid wins, including one narrow escape against Purdue in the quarterfinals. Their Big Ten Tournament showing sparked their run to the Sweet Sixteen. Can Michigan mimic that season and make a run this year? It is March after all and weirder things have happened.
Head coach Juwan Howard is officially back for the Big Ten Tournament. This is Howard’s second Big Ten Tournament as Michigan’s head coach, as he guided the Wolverines to the semifinals last year before losing to Ohio State. How do you think Howard’s return will impact Michigan’s tournament hopes?
With some frustrating conference losses and split games with the likes of Purdue and Michigan State, which team(s) would you like Michigan to cross paths with again? If it’s not so much a concern of seeing Michigan having another crack at some certain Big Ten teams, what would Michigan’s ideal path to the conference tournament title game be? Depending on the hand it gets dealt, how far do you expect the Wolverines to make it next weekend?
While it is a little bleak right now, with the Maize and Blue being unable to come up with two solid wins in a row in its past seven games, there is still the chance they can turn things around in Indianapolis. There is a lot on the line, as they have felt the pressure all season to measure up to the preseason expectations laid out for them.
With minimal consistency over the last few weeks, it’s hard to pinpoint what Michigan team we will see, whether that’s the final game of the regular season or next week. The Wolverines can be a tournament caliber team when they want to, and it will be interesting to see how this team operates in tournament play. Seemingly overnight they can go from blowing out an opponent to being blown out themselves. I’m not entirely sure how this year will pan out for the Maize and Blue, but this team is full of good and bad surprises.
How do you think the Wolverines will fare in the Big Ten Tournament this year? What has stuck out to you the most about this season?
Share all your thoughts about the Big Ten Tournament and Michigan’s season this year with us in the comments below!