That’s The Michigan Team We’re Supposed To See!
In a surprise to many college basketball and Big Ten fans, 12-9 and unranked Michigan blew out 3rd ranked Purdue on Thursday night at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor 82-58.
Sophomore center Hunter Dickinson (pictured after the Purdue game) led the Wolverines with 22 points and 9 rebounds. Fifth-year senior guard Eli Brooks added 18 points and was 4-4 from three-point range.
And as I was watching this game, I was thinking: "Where has this been all season?" "Why haven't they played with this effort all season long?". Well, it's about time they played with that sense of urgency. It only took until February for that to happen. Like the title says: "That's the Michigan team we're supposed to see!"
LET'S GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING
Michigan, you may remember, started the season ranked 4th in the nation after an Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA Tournament last season. And as a result, were highly touted heading into the year.
But they have played poorly in many games so far. They have some bad home losses (Seton Hall and Minnesota), they lost to Central Florida on the road and got blown out by Arizona (neutral court) and North Carolina (in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge in December in Chapel Hill). There was no urgency that could be seen.
THE COVID-19 PAUSE
Rampant COVID-19 cases paused the season in January right after they lost to Rutgers on the road. It postponed the Purdue and Michigan State home games. They made up the Purdue on Thursday night and they'll make up the MSU game on March 1st. That's not an excuse for Michigan's struggles because a lot of other teams have had to deal with it.
HOWEVER, AFTER THE PAUSE
Michigan has regrouped. They are 6-3 since the pause. Hunter Dickinson has played better, and he's starting to get some help from other guys, like Moussa Diabate, Eli Brooks, and Devante Jones.
CAN THEY STILL MAKE THE NCAA TOURNAMENT?
Absolutely they can, the win over Purdue is a start. They are now 13-9 overall. And they have tough, but winnable games coming up. That starts on Saturday when they host 16th ranked Ohio State. They head to Iowa and Wisconsin after that (not easy, hope for a split). They then have four straight home games (vs. Rutgers, Illinois, Michigan State, and Iowa) before the regular season finale at Ohio State.
If they can get to 18-19 wins, counting the Big Ten Tournament, I think they'll get in. If they get to 20 wins, they're absolutely in.
But the jury is still out for the Blue. Can they get it done in March? We'll see.