If you watched Michigan State’s absolute domination of Michigan this past Tuesday in East Lansing, what I’m about to tell you may not make a whole lot of sense. The Wolverines played their worst game since being upset by Ohio in last year’s NCAA Tournament. The team who was ranked number 1 nationally just over a week ago looked more like the Michigan teams under Brian Ellerbe. But even though Michigan looked terrible at MSU, the schedule down the stretch sets up perfectly for a legitimate run at a number 1 seed come March.
As of Saturday, the Wolverines have six games remaining in B1G play. They have two games against Penn State (a team that is yet to win a conference game), a home game against Illinois, a road game at Purdue, a home game against the aforementioned Spartans and a big match-up at Crisler against the number 1 ranked Indiana Hoosiers. Assuming that Michigan wins the four games not against ranked opponents, that leaves two revenge-style match-ups against the two teams ahead of them in the B1G standings.
Although wins over Indiana and MSU would be far from expected, there are rarely sweeps in big rivalry games in B1G play. So even though Michigan was exposed this past week, they have a chance at retribution. If U of M was able to win out (a big if), that would leave them at 27-4 with splits with OSU, IU and MSU. Since all of these teams still play each other, there is a chance that U of M could catch the Spartans and Hoosiers who are two games up on the Wolverines in the conference standings. If Michigan wins out and at least reaches the finals of the B1G tournament, they have to be considered for a 1 seed. The B1G will get at least one number 1 seed in the tourney because they are the undisputed best conference in America. They may get two depending on what takes place between Miami Duke in the ACC, whether Kansas is able to wrap up the Big 12 title and if Florida can win out in the SEC.
Over the past two seasons, Michigan has lived and died on the three-point shot. Although they have been a bit more balanced due to the emergence of freshmen Glen Robinson III and Mitch McGary, both players have been inconsistent. I believe it’s imperative for head coach John Beilein to get junior Jordan Morgan back involved in the rotation. Morgan has missed time with an ankle injury, but if he’s healthy, he has to play more. His interior experience will be a huge key for upcoming rematches against the Hoosiers and Spartans.
My prediction, two B1G teams will get number 1 seeds. Although on the surface it appears as though MSU and Indiana are the most likely candidates, Michigan’s schedule gives them a fighting chance. If they have another performance like last Tuesday’s, they’ll have no chance.