I won’t deny it. I started to lose faith. With 10 minutes to play, I was wondering whether a loss would send Michigan to Dayton or the NIT. The Illini were not just getting open looks on offense, they were also winning what seemed like every 50-50 ball. For the first three quarters of the game, Michigan was badly outplayed. It only took eight minutes for Michigan to steal the game. Trailing 51-39 with 8:35 to play, Michigan closed the game on a 21-4 run and walked off the court with a victory.
This blog is generally focused on statistics, but the Wolverines won this game because they had more heart. Michigan has now won nine of its last 12 games and four of those victories were second half comebacks away from Crisler Arena. Remember, this is the youngest major-conference team in the country. Now a team picked last in the conference by most preseason prognosticators, and even left for dead at the end of January, appears to have cemented an NCAA tournament berth and will spend tonight preparing for a conference semifinal game.
Stu Douglass, Evan Smotrycz and Jordan Morgan were all available in the locker room after Michigan’s 60-55 win over Illinois to talk about the victory, Ohio State, and possibly punching their ticket to go dancing.
Tip off is 2:30 pm, or after the Northwestern-Ohio State game on ESPN (or streaming at ESPN3.com. As usual, we encourage you to join the discussion in the comments below. Here’s all of the standard pregame coverage:
The Big Ten Tournament’s 4-5 game presents an interesting dynamic. Not only is the first round bye nice, you get a whole week to prepare for a known opponent rather than attempting to guess what team you will face. This game is even more intriguing because it’s just the second match-up between Michigan and Illinois and the first meeting in Champagne was decided by a missed buzzer beater. NCAA tournament implications just add to the stakes.