ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The feeling around the Michigan basketball program is that of disgust with a hint of confusion.
The players, they know the play on both ends of the floor has to be better and are well aware of the expectations this program has reached, wanting as bad as anyone to continue this very successful stretch of success.
The coaches, they see it all. Details and rhythm are essential components to productive offensive sequences, severely lacking throughout Michigan’s current four game losing streak.
A positive correlation?
Both players and coaches haven’t shown any panic or sense that this period will continue forever. But a dose of reality and humility is also sparking some added commentary from the man in charge of the Wolverines, John Beilein, certainly not shying away from laying out where his program stands.
And a victory would go a long way for his teams’ mentality heading into Big Ten conference play.
“That’s what we need right now, we need to get a win and grow from that as well,” Beilein said after Michigan’s loss to SMU at Crisler Center. “But we’ll grow a lot from this loss. It is tough. Our coaching staff, most of these kids played on really good high school teams and some of them might not lose four in a season let alone lose four in a row.
“There’s been times we didn’t lose the fourth game until the middle of February so it’s part of it and it’s a great opportunity for us right now to be great mentors to them and teach them through this as we continue to transition here.”
Five losses by Christmas is something Michigan’s program hasn’t been accustomed to in recent seasons. The Wolverines fourth loss of the year in 2012-13 came on Feb. 12 at Michigan State. A year ago, Michigan dropped their fifth game of the year on Feb. 2 to Indiana.
Even if Michigan is choosing not to freak out, this is unchartered territory for every single player on a very young and inexperienced roster. Don’t confuse being stunned, at times rendered speechless, for anyone believing it won’t be turned around to some extent.
“We haven’t lost two games in a row since I’ve been here,” Michigan junior Caris LeVert said. “We’re at four now. We’ve never been through this type of adversity before.”
Okay, that’s not entirely factual. In nearly two and a half seasons, LeVert has experienced back-to-back defeats on just one occasion. That brief stretch came back in 2013 with losses to Wisconsin and Michigan State just three days apart.
But still, that’s pretty impressive. At the same time, a stretch like that changes the culture of a program and how fans, and even players, will react when failure rears its ugly head.
“We got some pressure on us now,” Michigan sophomore Zak Irvin said. “This is our third loss at home and we rarely lose at home the last couple years.
“It is tough for us, people are overthinking right now but like I said we can’t worry about that. We just have to have a next play mentality.”
Those three home losses for Michigan to start the year include NJIT, Eastern Michigan and now of course SMU.
Over the last two seasons, Michigan defended home court as well as anyone in the country, compiling a combined record of 30-3 at Crisler Center. The three losses during that period include No. 2 Indiana by one-point, No. 1 Arizona by two, and to No. 21 Wisconsin (the Badgers would go on to make it to the 2014 Final Four).
“We got to keep the team positive,” LeVert said. “We got to keep the team together and that’s the only way we’re going to get through this.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. We got to fight through this and find a way to get a win.”
And for that to happen, everyone will have to do their job and continue progressing, learning through the heavy adversity levied against the young Wolverines.
“I think right now everyone knows what their role is,” Irvin said. “The big thing is just confidence wise we’re on a four game losing streak. We just have to stay connected and fight through all this.
“We just got to bounce back for Monday. We can’t dwell on this and get another loss on Monday. We got to get a big win for us on Monday before Big Ten conference.”
Michigan hosts Coppin State Monday, tip-off at 8 p.m.