The Michigan Wolverines will close out the regular season on Sunday afternoon at Penn State. The game will tip off at 1pm and be televised on ESPN. U-M enters the contest with a Big Ten Championship in their sights. If they take care of business and beat the Nittany Lions, they’ll sweat out Ohio State’s 4pm game at Michigan State – because a U-M victory combined with an OSU win would create a 3-way tie for first place in the Big Ten.
So it is these Wolverines who have a chance to secure Michigan’s first conference championship since 1986. Not the Fab Five, they couldn’t do it. Not the 1989 National Championship team, they finished 3rd in the Big Ten that year. It’s this Michigan team. The one guided by the once unheralded, but now renowned leaders, Stu Douglass and Zack Novak. It’s this team led on the court by, as Jalen Rose called him, a “Fab Frosh” who just so happens to be the best guard in the Big Ten – Trey Burke. The same team with Tim Hardaway Jr., who battled through a rough stretch this season and came out on the other end a better player. It’s these Wolverines who stand on the threshold of something truly special. The product of John Beilein’s craftsmanship and excellent eye for talent.
Standing in their way is a scrappy Penn State squad that is led by the talented Tim Frazier who leads the team in scoring (18.8), rebounding (4.8), assists (6.3) and steals (2.2). Despite owning a 12-18 record and being 4-13 in conference play, the Nittany Lions have been a tough out at home. 10 of their 12 victories have come within the friendly confines of the Bryce Jordan Center. In their last 5 home games they lost to Northwestern by 1, beat Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois, and lost to Wisconsin by 6. Translation – they will play Michigan tough and this is by no means a gimmie.
The good news is Michigan is starting to roll. They’ve won 5 of their last 6, including the last 3 road games. Tim Hardaway Jr. has been tremendous and Trey Burke is simply incredible. The bad news is Jordan Morgan and Evan Smotrycz both sustained minor injuries while banging with Ivan Drago otherwise known as Illinois center Meyers Leonard on Thursday night. Neither injury is considered serious, but one or both of them could be limited on Sunday.
Predictions: So far this season I am 22-8 and Joe is 21-9 in predicting the outcome of Michigan’s games. Back in October we both made our game-by-game predictions for the entire season. At the end of the regular season Joe projected Michigan would be 24-7, 14-4. I had them at 27-4, 15-3. With a win Michigan will finish the regular season 23-8, 13-5 – so kudos to Joe for coming within one game of correctly predicting their regular season record.
We both like Michigan to beat Penn State
Joe: Michigan 65-55
Rob: Michigan 68-61