Despite their recent loss to Indiana, Michigan basketball is playing their best basketball towards the end of the season. As heartbreaking as the loss to the Hoosiers was, there was plenty to be excited for, even giving reason to be confident going into their matchup versus Wisconsin.
Aside from the final five minutes of the game, in which the Wolverines didn’t score a single point, Michigan led most of the 40 minutes. Not to mention, some important names showed up in a big way throughout the game. Sophomore Kobe Bufkin scored 14 on the day, while big man Hunter Dickinson logged three blocks.
While it might feel differently, Michigan basketball is very much in the hunt for the NCAA Tournament, and hope is not lost for the Wolverines’ season.
Five-way tie for fifth
Giving complete transparency, I could not tell you the last time the Big Ten was this even. Aside from Purdue sitting at the top, the conference is wide open regarding who is the second-best team. For context, Michigan has beaten the No. 2 team, Northwestern, twice this season. In contrast, the Wolverines have also lost to the No. 11 team in the Big Ten, Penn State.
For any college football fans out there, the Big Ten’s basketball season thus far reminds me quite a bit of the Big 12’s 2022 football season. The teams keep eliminating each other from contention of anything, making it nearly impossible to tell who deserves to be at the top.
The middle of the Big Ten is wide open, making the remainder of the season that much more important for the Wolverines. If Michigan wins out, they’ll find themselves with a record of 21-11, which could easily get them into the NCAA Tournament. At the same time, if the Wolverines don’t win another game, they could find themselves with a record of 14-17, which might even take them out of contention for the NIT Tournament.
Every single game must be viewed as a must-win for the Wolverines. These next six games are some of the most important this season and for coach Juwan Howard’s career as Michigan basketball’s coach. It all starts with their matchup tonight versus Wisconsin.
Wisconsin on the clock
Michigan basketball faces off against Wisconsin in Madison tonight, and once again, it is a must-win game for the Wolverines. This has been the case for them for most of the back half of the season, so this is nothing new for coach Juwan Howard and company.
Wisconsin sits at 14-10 overall, with a 6-8 record in conference play. Technically, as things stand, the Badgers are two games behind Michigan in the Big Ten. Still, Wisconsin is favored to win the matchup, with a 63.4 percent chance to win, according to ESPN analytics. This projection is likely due to homecourt advantage and the Wolverines’ inconsistent play throughout the season.
The sad truth heading into tonight is that if Michigan wins this game, it doesn’t do much for them. However, if they lose, they could be as good as removed from NCAA Tournament contention. Michigan put itself in this position, and it will not be easy to get out of it.
However, a win over the Badgers in Madison could do wonders for getting them back on track. Basketball is a game of runs, and it will be essential to get some momentum going into the rest of the season. The game tips off at 9:00 p.m. EST, and the Wolverines will need all the help they can get if they want to head back home with a victory over the Badgers.
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