Well, at least part of it now belongs to Michigan. You certainly won’t hear me complaining. Last week’s theatrics, coincidentally and absolutely Oscar-worthy, left the Wolverines in position to capture a Big Ten championship, and possibly leap into the Top 10 as the season draws to a close. After escaping at the buzzer vs. Purdue, the Wolverines adequately suppressed Minnesota to capture a share of their 14th Big Ten title, second in three seasons. Michigan’s perfect week secures the squad a first-round bye for the upcoming Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis, as well as a hefty slice of momentum going into the final two matchups of the season.
Holy Buzzer Beater, Batman
I won’t lie. Things were looking about as bleak as possible Wednesday night, and I was thoroughly concerned. After a first half of being completely manhandled, the Wolverines trailed by double digits and were on track to drop a typical Michigan heartbreaker, only days after bullying in-state rival MSU en route to an upset victory in Crisler Center. I say ‘typical Michigan’ because only Michigan (as well as each Atlanta sports team, and every other team I’ve ever loved) can do something like beat Michigan State, and then be convincingly silenced by Purdue (or in my case, lately, the 49ers, the Dodgers, and any team that plays the Hawks).
But luckily, John Beilein delivers a halftime speech equaling those of Vince Lombardi, and the Wolverines came out primed to steal one from the jaws of the Boilermakers. After storming back to secure overtime, the unexpected, but always timely, duo of Spike Albrecht (every commentator since the National Championship game has been exceedingly eager to mention his astonishing 17 points) and Jordan Morgan were responsible for the brunt of offensive production in the extra period, setting the Wolverines up for a final try at victory, down a single point with a hair over 2 seconds remaining. And when Caris LeVert heaved that rainbow skip pass to the opposite block, GR3 did the rest, spinning in the last-second stunner, allowing Michigan to escape at the last possible moment with a win.
The Road Ahead
After forcefully overpowering Minnesota, the Wolverines improved their conference record to 13-3, best in the Big Ten, and are now projected as a 3-seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology updates. Perched just outside the Top 10 (#12 to be exact) Michigan is left with two final matchups, at Illinois and vs. Indiana, to hopefully jump into a coveted spot among the ten best. These final two games, and the Big Ten tournament for that matter, are about two central themes for the Wolverines: momentum and location. John Beilein and Co. fortunately need not worry about bubbles, but each matchup represents a potential dagger for the Wolverines tournament hopes. Ask Frank Underwood; the main disadvantage of being on top, is the ever-looming threat of those beneath. Michigan has a chance to maximize momentum, and location (seed), but also could see everything for which they’ve worked so hard slip through their fingertips.