ANN ARBOR – The first week of 2018 was arguably the most important week in Michigan’s season, and a strong showing would be the deciding factor whether or not they would be a contender in the Big Ten.
The Wolverines had to go up against 2 of the best teams in the conference, who were also top 5 teams in the entire country in Purdue and Michigan State. With strong outings against both teams, they would be able to count themselves in as an NCAA Tournament team.
They did just that.
Although they lost to the Boilermakers, the game came down to the wire and were one foul away from winning that game. However, Michigan managed to convincingly beat the Spartans in East Lansing, led by Mo Wagner’s 27 points.
Due to their impressive week, the Wolverines cracked the top 25 for the first time in the 2017-2018 season, and have found themselves in the position ever since. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been smooth sailing since the team was rewarded with a ranking among College Basketball’s best.
Since then the Wolverines have lost 3 of their last 7 games, and were a Muhammed-Ali Abdur Rahkman foul against Maryland and an OT comeback against Minnesota away from losing another 2 games. With that being said, it seems that the Wolverines have taken their foot off the gas pedal since cracking the top 25.
Left in their regular season, Michigan has to play three of their remaining five games away from the Crisler Center, beginning on Sunday on the road in Madison against the Badgers. The Maize and Blue have struggled on the road with only 3 wins in 8 games, meaning they’ll have to make some adjustments, and fast.
What made them so successful last season was the “chip on their shoulder” mentality.
When the team were upset by Ohio State, everyone seemed to write them off as pretenders and a team who would be lucky to even make it into the NIT.
In spite of the critics and surviving that plane incident, they went on a magical run which included defeating Michigan State, Purdue and Wisconsin twice each, ultimately leading to a Big 10 title and a run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.
The loss to an unranked Northwestern squad on Monday will probably make the Wolverines slide down the rankings, but it may not be such a bad thing. If that’s the case, it could possibly be the wake-up call they need in order to repeat as Big 10 champions and/or a long run in the “Big Dance”.
It may not be the same team from a year ago, however they’ll need to find a way to regain at least some of that scrappy mentality.