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Michigan athletics: Previewing a big week for U-M winter sports

This weekend is a big one for Michigan athletics as the Wolverines will face many tough tests across a variety of sports.



Photo: @Adiel_photography (instagram)

Michigan football had a heartbreaking loss in the College Football Playoff a week ago, and a media circus has ensued since the Wolverines’ season ended. Naturally, it can be easy to forget that Michigan athletics has other sports competing for Big Ten Championships right now. Don’t let speculation on Jim Harbaugh’s future as head coach and possible NCAA punishments over the so-called ‘Burgergate’ take away from the Wolverines’ massive week ahead.

Men’s Basketball

Coming off a disappointing loss at the Breslin Center against an in-state rival — the Michigan State Spartans — a game in which Michigan shot a pitiful 3-for-20 from deep (15 percent), the Wolverines will look to right the ship on Thursday night (7:00) in Iowa City when they take on the Hawkeyes.

Iowa (10-6, 2-3 B1G) may currently be in the bottom half of the conference standings but are better than their record indicates. Coming off impressive back-to-back Big Ten wins against Indiana and on the road at Rutgers, The Hawkeyes are trending in the right direction even without their third-leading scorer, Patrick McCaffery, who stepped away from the team this week for mental health reasons. Also, Michigan has struggled in Iowa City recently, as they’re just 2-6 at Carver-Hawkeye arena the past decade, and Iowa is a respectable 7-2 at home this season.

Michigan will look to slow the high-scoring Hawkeye offense, which currently sits 21st in the nation (1st in the B1G) with 81.7 points per game. As things sit now, Michigan is the 119th-scoring offense in the country (6th in the B1G) with 74.9 points per game. If nothing else, it should be an exciting game as Michigan (T-172nd nationally) and Iowa (264th nationally) are the 13th and 14th-ranked scoring defenses in the Big Ten, giving up 68.7 and 72.5 points per game, respectively.

One key for a Wolverine victory will be to slow down Iowa’s high-tempo offense (which currently sits third in the Big Ten with just under 13 fast break points per game). Also, Michigan needs to win the battle on the glass (Michigan has been outrebounded in five of six losses) and knock down the open shots when Hunter Dickinson inevitably gets doubled.

Capping the weekend for Michigan athletics on Sunday at noon will be a men’s basketball home matchup with the surging Northwestern Wildcats (12-3, 3-1 B1G), who’s won two straight games of their own and currently sit tied for second in the conference with Michigan and two others. While 2-0 would be ideal, the Wolverines need to split these games at least to keep themselves in the hunt for the B1G title and their hopes of making a seventh consecutive NCAA tournament.

Women’s Basketball

After a blazing 9-0 start, including an impressive non-conference win over Baylor, the Women’s Wolverines basketball team has gone just 4-3 since, including an ugly home loss to MAC opponent Toledo. Michigan rebounded nicely and even knocked off the No. 22 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels, but has now lost two out of their last three games against Ohio State and Iowa. Coach Kim Barnes-Arico will look to turn things around first on Tuesday (6:30) with a road matchup at Purdue (11-4, 2-3 B1G) before a home game on Saturday (2:00) with rivals, the Michigan State Spartans (10-6, 2-3 B1G).

Purdue is an impressive 7-1 at home and will look to rebound after dropping two of their last three games, including, most recently, a road loss to the Nittany Lions. The Boilermakers are led in scoring by fifth-year senior Lasha Petree, a Rutgers transfer by way of Bradley, who averages 17.7 points per game. Senior Jeanae Terry, an Illinois transfer, currently leads the team in assists (7.2), rebounds (8.1), and steals (2.2) per game.

Meanwhile, Michigan State has had an up-and-down season, starting a perfect 6-0 before dropping five straight games. The lady Spartans followed that up with wins in five out of the last six but lost their most recent matchup with Maryland. Michigan State takes on Wisconsin first on Wednesday before making the trip to the Crisler Center this weekend.

One of the most lopsided all-time series for Michigan’s women’s hoops (State leads 73-23 all-time), the Wolverines have had more success recently, winners in four out of the previous five matchups with the Spartans. This streak comes after winning just five times total from 2003-2019.

Michigan (13-3, 3-2 B1G) currently sits sixth in the Big Ten, but two wins this week would go a long way in making up ground with the undefeated, first-place Ohio State Buckeyes (17-0, 6-0 B1G).

Men’s Hockey

The Wolverines’ men’s hockey (12-7, 4-6 B1G, 12 points) represented Michigan athletics well, starting the season out impressively after their Frozen Four appearance a season ago, winning eight out of nine games. This start includes splitting a series with No. 9 Boston University and sweeping in-state foes, the No. 17 Western Michigan Broncos. Unfortunately, things have soured somewhat since conference play began under first-year interim head coach Brandon Naurato. The Wolverines currently sit sixth out of seven in the Big Ten with twelve points and have split four B1G matchups while being swept by first-place Minnesota.

But there is still a lot of season to be played, and Michigan can start by turning things around with a huge home weekend matchup with rival Ohio State Buckeyes (12-7-1, 5-5 B1G, 21 points).

The Wolverines are coming off an exhibition, 7-6 victory over the under-18 U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) this past Friday after a nearly month-long break. Even though it was just an exhibition, it was an impressive win nonetheless as Michigan was down six of their top nine point-scorers as they were returning from the World Junior Championship. Before that, we last saw the Wolverines split a home series with the Michigan State Spartans before going on break for the holidays.

The Ohio State Buckeyes have already returned to play for the second half of the Big Ten season, as they’re coming off a sweep of the same MSU Spartans last weekend in Columbus. Winners of five straight, Ohio State will look to continue its hot streak in Ann Arbor, but the Wolverines have had the Buckeyes number the past two seasons, going an impressive 7-2 against them in that time.

Michigan Athletics Full Week Schedule

Tuesday – Women’s basketball at Purdue/6:30 p.m. EST/Big Ten Network

Thursday -Men’s basketball at Iowa/7:00 p.m. EST/ESPN2

Friday – Men’s Hockey vs. Ohio State/6:30 p.m. EST/B1G+

Saturday – Women’s basketball vs. Michigan State p.m. EST/2:00/B1G+

Saturday – Men’s hockey vs. Ohio State/4:30 p.m. EST/Big Ten Network

Sunday- Men’s basketball vs. Northwestern/12:00 p.m. EST/Big Ten Network

Married father of two who works in the medical field- loves snowboarding, disc golf, reading, writing and Michigan athletics.