The Gophers' next opponents took some time to figure things out, but the Michigan Wolverines could be a team to contend with.
Patience has started to pay off for Michigan
The Wolverines have taken a long time to grasp first-year coach John Beilein's offensive and defensive systems, but now everything is starting to click. Notching three consecutive wins inside the Big Ten for the first time since 2005-2006 has helped Michigan improved to 8-17 overall and 4-9 in the conference.
"We're playing with a lot more confidence now," freshman guard Manny Harris said. "We know we're going to go on a run at some point in the game. Everybody is talking to each other, and we believe we can win."
Beilein's offense is predicated heavily on the sharp shooter, and he has watched Michigan get better at that phase of the game in recent weeks.
"There have been practices this year in which we've shown we can shoot the ball from the outside, but we haven't been great game shooters," Beilein said. "I see it coming on, though. When you can open the floor, it makes us a better team offensively."
Michigan's schedule is ranked the second toughest in the country by USA Today's Sagarin Ratings and eighth toughest according to the RPI. Michigan has played five top-10 teams and eight top-20 teams this season.
Michigan is averaging 5.0 blocks a game, tops in the Big Ten. The Wolverines led the conference in blocked shots last season.
F Anthony Wright has emerged as the first man off the bench in recent weeks and logged a season-high 27 minutes in the upset win over Ohio State Feb. 17. The freshman has played at least 23 minutes in three of the last four games.
G David Merritt left the Ohio State game Feb. 17 with what was described as a strained left knee. Further tests were expected. Losing Merritt, a quality guard off the bench, could have a deeper impact. It would force Michigan's starters to play additional minutes, which might become an issue this late in the season.
G Manny Harris scored a career-high 27 points as in the upset of Ohio State Feb. 17. The freshman has seven 20-point games this season and has been in double-figures in 22 of 25 games.
F Anthony Wright has averaged 7.4 points a game off the bench in the last nine games. Wright also made 16 3-pointers in that span.
G Kelvin Grady is averaging 7.0 points and 3.8 assists in the four games since being moved back into the starting lineup.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — F DeShawn Sims, F Epke Udoh, F Ron Coleman, G Manny Harris, G Kelvin Grady. Key Subs — F Anthony Wright, F Zack Gibson, G David Merritt.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It feels like this team is clicking, and there is no telling what we can do." — G Manny Harris on Michigan's season-best three-game winning streak.
Michigan 68, Penn State 63
Michigan 60, Iowa 52
Michigan 80, Ohio State 70
at Minnesota, Thursday, Feb. 21
vs. Illinois, Saturday, Feb. 23
vs. Northwestern, Tuesday, Feb. 26
at Penn State, Saturday, March 1