Overlooked Wolverines hoping to make noise in March
History has demonstrated a multitude of times that life on the bubble can be very uncomfortable. The Wolverines had to spend a few weeks fighting for a place on that bubble, and a possession here or there earlier in the season might have made that unnecessary.
The opportunities were there. Michigan lost a three-point decision away from home to then No. 3 Syracuse. There was a seven-point overtime loss to then No. 3 Kansas, a pair of single-digit losses to Ohio State when it was ranked first or second in the nation, a five-point loss at No. 15 Minnesota, and a last-second, one-point loss to Wisconsin.
If the Wolverines were able to flip just one of those results, then their chances for stepping off the bubble and into the NCAA Tournament bracket are significantly enhanced. They recently lost by two at Illinois when a three-pointer at the buzzer missed the mark, and even a change in that result would possibly have boosted Michigan's resume enough to get them in.
On the eve of the trip to play at Minnesota in the second-last game of the regular season, the weight of the outcome was apparent, but the Wolverines were not looking for excuses for the tough position they found themselves in.
"I don't think we can play victim, I don't think that will help us at all," said junior guard Stu Douglass. "We've just got to look forward. That's all we can do right now."
The Wolverines bounced back, defeating Minnesota 70-63, and enhanced their chances to make the NCAA Tournament. The final regular season opportunity for Michigan to build on that post-season resume will come at home against rival Michigan State. A win there makes life on the bubble a whole lot less scary.
--The Wolverines have played the 21st most difficult schedule in the country this season through Feb. 27, facing teams in the top 100 of the RPI 19 times.
--With the nation's 19th youngest roster, Michigan was picked to finish 10th or 11th in the Big Ten in nearly every pre-season poll and publication. With no seniors and six freshmen, the Wolverines went into their final two games seventh in the standings, with the possibility of finishing as high as fourth.
--Michigan is shooting 44.8 percent from the field through Feb. 26, the best of any Wolverines team in the John Beilein era.
--The Wolverines have had seven games this season through Feb. 26 where they made 10 or more 3-pointers.
--Two years ago, Michigan moved off the NCAA Tournament bubble and into the field for the tournament by defeating Minnesota on the road.
BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- In Michigan's first meeting with Minnesota this season, Wolverines' freshman F Jordan Morgan failed to grab a single rebound as the Gophers dominated the boards 38-13. In the recent rematch, Minnesota won the rebounding battle 36-28, but Morgan grabbed six boards as the Wolverines won.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Each time you lose that opportunity, it means you've got to beat somebody else to make up for it. It gets down to a numbers game a little bit. How many of those type of wins do you have? And close doesn't count." -- Michigan coach John Beilein on what has impacted his team's chances of making the NCAA Tournament.
--vs. Michigan State, March 5
KEY MATCHUPS: The Wolverines close the season with a rematch against their in-state rivals. The Spartans are regaining their footing after some mid-season turmoil, and senior G Kalin Lucas has been dominant again. Michigan sophomore PG Darius Morris will likely draw the assignment of checking Lucas, a smaller and quicker player. Keeping Lucas from igniting the break will be critical to Michigan's success in this game.
FUTURES MARKET: The Wolverines move toward the end of the regular season with several significant accomplishments already in hand. Michigan already surpassed last season's victory total of 15, and with their recent win over Minnesota, the Wolverines have surpassed their Big Ten wins from a year ago. With the youngest team in the Big Ten and one of the youngest in the nation, Michigan has laid a solid foundation for the coming seasons.
--Freshman G Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Wolverines with 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting in the recent 70-63 win at Minnesota. Hardaway has led the Wolverines in scoring nine times this season.
--Sophomore PG Darius Morris has passed former UM star Gary Grant and is now the all-time assist leader among sophomores at Michigan with 204.
--Freshman F Jordan Morgan leads the Big Ten in field goal percentage, hitting 63.2 percent for the season, and 67 percent in conference play.
--Junior F Zack Novak is just 6-4, but leads the Wolverines with 5.9 rebounds per game. He ranks 11th in the Big Ten in rebounding.
--Michigan junior G Stu Douglass is sixth all-time for the Wolverines with 150 career three-pointers. He recently passed Manny Harris for that sixth spot, and is now chasing fifth-ranked Robbie Reid (160).
--Sophomore PG Darius Morris leads the Big Ten in assists per game with 6.79, and is fourth in the nation.
--Sophomore F Jordan Dumars sat out the first semester as a transfer from South Florida, then had surgery on his right knee. Dumars did not appear in any games this season for Michigan, and intends to apply for a medical redshirt that would give him three years of eligibility with the Wolverines.
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