I wasn’t expecting a win on Sunday, so it didn’t surprise me that Michigan lost to Wisconsin. What did surprise me is that Michigan only lost by a score of 60-55 despite playing like absolute crap at the start of both halves.
To start the game, Michigan went down 8-0, and it looked like a repeat of the first meeting between these two teams was about to happen. Wisconsin was making every shot they attempted (mainly because nearly every shot was a layup) and Michigan couldn’t score. That combination seemed like it would last for most of the game, but Michigan got things turned around and went on something like a 16-2 run in the final ten minutes of the half. Thanks to that big shift in momentum, Michigan actually led 34-32 at the half.
That lead quickly disappeared thanks to an absolutely pathetic start to the second half. Michigan had scored only 2 points in the half until Laval Lucas-Perry hit a three-pointer right around the ten-minute mark. That three sparked another run, and Michigan began to slowly cut away at what was once a 9-point lead. In fact, with less than three minutes remaining, Michigan trailed by only 2 points. Despite playing so poorly for extended portions of this game, Michigan was in position to win the game.
Now trailing by 3 with around 30 seconds left on the clock, Michigan had a chance to tie the game. DeShawn Sims got the ball and had an open look from behind the arc, but his shot didn’t fall. Then, after Wisconsin made only a single free throw, Sims missed another three-pointer. Michigan could have gone for a two-pointer since the lead was only 4 points, but Sims was open and decided to shoot. I can’t blame him for shooting the threes, but in a situation like that I would rather see someone like Stu Douglass, Zack Novak, or Manny Harris taking shots from behind the arc.
Michigan did its best to extend the game, but Wisconsin didn’t miss enough of its free throws to make it worthwhile for the Wolverines. The Badgers went on to win 60-55 and have now put themselves in solid position to make the tournament. Things could change when they play Minnesota this week, but for now, they are on the good side of the bubble. The same can’t be said for Michigan, but they still have a chance to change that.
Michigan’s final regular season game is at Minnesota on Saturday. They have almost a week off to prepare for the game, which should be a big advantage. Michigan is going to need every advantage they can get, because winning at Minnesota won’t be easy, especially when you consider that the Golden Gophers are going to be playing for a spot in the NCAA tournament as well.
This is almost like a play-in game in that sense. If Michigan can beat Minnesota they will likely be on the good side of the bubble yet again. A win in the Big Ten tournament would still be necessary, but first things first, they have to beat Minnesota on Saturday. If Michigan doesn’t, then the only way to make the tournament is by pulling off a miracle run and winning the Big Ten tournament. Anything is possible, as Georgia showed us last year, but the chances of winning four games in four days are very slim.
(Check out UM Hoops for a list of which bubble teams we should be rooting against this week.)