ANN ARBOR, Mich. – If you believe in trends or patterns in sports, then you’ve got to be worried about Michigan basketball’s final home game against Iowa.
The Wolverines defeated the Hawkeyes two weeks ago in Iowa City, but Thursday night’s rematch at the Crisler Center will be no easy task.
Michigan is scratching and clawing to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament, and with each passing game, opinions seesaw on where the Wolverines stand.
One things for certain: Selection Sunday is 10 days away, and this team is not safe.
The biggest reason for Michigan’s early March unease is inconsistency. Specifically, the Wolverines have had a hard time building on significant wins.
Michigan only has five wins against Big Ten teams with a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament. Here’s a look at those wins and how Michigan responded immediately afterward:
- Jan. 23: Michigan won at Indiana by 18 points.
- Jan. 26: Michigan nearly lost a home game to Northwestern as an 8-point favorite. The Wildcats missed a game-winning three-point attempt at the buzzer.
- Jan. 29: Michigan lost at Michigan State by 16 points.
- Feb. 1: Michigan was tied with Nebraska (0-11 in the Big Ten at that time) with 80 seconds left at home. The Wolverines had crushed that same Nebraska team by 35 points in December.
- Feb. 10: Michigan beat No. 3 Purdue by 14 points.
- Feb. 12: Michigan lost to Ohio State at home by 11 points.
- Feb. 17: Michigan upset Iowa on the road.
- Feb. 20: Michigan lost at Wisconsin by 14 points.
- Feb. 23: Michigan beat Rutgers by nine points.
- Feb. 27: Michigan lost at home to Illinois by eight points.
- March 1: Michigan beat Michigan State by 17 points.
- March 3: ??? (Iowa game.)
After three of its best wins -- Purdue, Iowa and Rutgers -- Michigan turned around and lost the next games by an average of 11 points. The Indiana win was followed by three uninspiring performances in a row.
Thursday night is Michigan’s last home game, and the last chance for the Wolverines to put together back-to-back strong showings. Iowa is a surging team, winning four in a row since its loss to Michigan.
If the rest of the season is any indication, the Wolverines will shoot poorly from beyond the arc, experience long stretches of sluggish offense and find themselves inching precariously close to that tournament cut line.
Or, maybe Michigan will finally buck that trend, replicate Tuesday’s strong performance and come away feeling better than it has since, well, way back in November.
Time is not on Michigan’s side, and a daunting trip to Columbus looms to close out the regular season. Thursday is an opportunity to change the narrative and finally take a step in the right direction.
It’s now or never.