Expectations high for Wolverines in Big Ten Tourney
Now that the season is completed and Michigan has over-achieved its way into a three-way tie for a Big Ten championship, the Wolverines are looking for more.
When the season began, Michigan was not part of the top three teams picked to battle it out for the conference title, but bitter rivals Ohio State and Michigan State were. Michigan now shares the title with those two, following Ohio State's upset of the Spartans in the final game of the conference season.
With its strong showing in the conference season, Michigan locked up a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament and pushed the bar of expectation a little higher.
The Wolverines (23-8) looked like they might have to push aside the bitter disappointment over knowing that it was a loss to Purdue in the final home game of the season on Feb. 25 likely cost them a piece of the title.
Had Michigan finished unbeaten at home with a win over the Boilermakers, the Wolverines would have done no worse than a share of the Big Ten championship, and ultimately would have won it outright after the Buckeyes beat the Spartans.
"We hadn't lost in a couple of weeks. I think it hit pretty hard. It hit everybody hard," Michigan coach John Beilein said about the Purdue loss. "We were spoiled by winning four in a row and 15 in a row at home."
The Wolverines now await the winner of the March 8 first round game between Northwestern and Minnesota, and will meet that winner in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten tournament on March 9 in Indianapolis at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Wolverines end long title drought
--Michigan stood at 13-5 following its 71-65 win over Penn State on the final day of the regular season. The Wolverines then watched Ohio State upset Michigan State later that afternoon to give Michigan a share of its first Big Ten regular season title since 1986.
--PG Trey Burke should be the favorite for the Big Ten's freshman of the year award with his Michigan freshman record 144 assists, 28 games scoring in double figures, and his 14.5 points per game.
--Michigan's finish guaranteed the Wolverines a first round bye in the Big Ten tournament for the second straight year.
--F Evan Smotrycz emerged from a lengthy slump in the final game of the season when he hit 6-of-7 shots from the field to help the Wolverines defeat Penn State 71-65. Smotrycz hit 3-of-4 from outside the arc, and scored 17 points in 30 minutes off the bench. It was just his second game in double figures in the final 10 Big Ten games of the season.
BY THE NUMBERS: 144 -- Michigan freshman PG Trey Burke broke the freshman assists record with 144 this season. He passed former Michigan great Gary Grant, who had 140 assists as a freshman in 1984-85.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "If we hadn't talked about it all year long -- about what we try to do here at the University of Michigan, win championships -- it wouldn't be that big of a point right now. It's good and it's been emphasized. It should be natural now." -- Michigan coach John Beilein on the emphasis on winning a Big Ten title.
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--vs. Minnesota-Northwestern winner, Big Ten Tournament, March 9
KEY MATCHUPS: The Wolverines were a combined 3-0 against their potential quarterfinal opponent but none of the wins were easy. In fact, Michigan needed overtime in both of its wins over Northwestern: 66-64 on Jan. 11 in Ann Arbor and 67-55 on Feb. 21 in Evanston, Ill. The Wolverines played the Gophers just once and came away with a narrow 61-56 victory on Jan. 1.
FUTURES MARKET: Should they pull off an upset or two in the upcoming NCAA tournament and reach the Final Four in New Orleans, the Wolverines will be able to see two of their future teammates in action in New Orleans. Michigan commitments for next season F Mitch McGary and F Glenn Robinson will both be in New Orleans playing in the four-team All-American Championship tournament for high school seniors.
--G Stu Douglass started in the season finale at Penn State on March 4, marking the 133rd consecutive game he has played in his career. Douglass, who has not missed a game in four years in Ann Arbor, is just two games shy of the Michigan all-time mark of 135 games played, held by F Loy Vaught (1986-90).
The TSX Files: Michigan is looking ahead
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