No. 2 Michigan practicing like a second-place B1G team, because it is a second-place B1G team
"Practice like you're in second place, but play like you're a champion."
What Beilein means, of course, is that he wants his Michigan basketball team (17-1, 4-1) to continue preparing each day with a chip on its shoulder, and continue acting like hunters, rather than the hunted.
By doing that, he says, the team will have the edge it needs to perform like a Big Ten champion whenever it steps on the floor for a game.
That's just a phrase, of course, and its one the Wolverines are having no trouble grasping this week -- because, well, Michigan is in fact in second place with regard to the current Big Ten standings.
"We said that (Tuesday), actually," Michigan junior Jordan Morgan said Wednesday in advance of Michigan's Thursday home tilt with Purdue (7 p.m., ESPN). "Practice like you're in second place -- we are in second place.
"But play like you're a champion. It kind of fits the cliche, but at the same time, that's the mentality that we have and that's why we have so much fight in this team."
After Michigan State dropped Wisconsin at the Kohl Center on Tuesday, the Spartans (17-3, 6-1) took a one game lead in the standings, over both Michigan and Indiana (16-2, 4-1).
MSU travels to Indiana on Sunday, while Michigan will make the trek to Indiana on Feb. 2. Michigan and Michigan State won't play until Feb. 12 in East Lansing, the first of two meetings between the in-state rivals during the season's stretch drive.
Currently, MSU's Big Ten lead is partially a matter of circumstance -- as the Spartans have played two more games than Michigan, who remains the conference's only one-loss club, and its highest-ranked squad as well.
But the standings are what they are.
Michigan's not in front at the moment. Which, actually, isn't the worst thing in the world for a bunch of players who are pretty comfortable with an underdog role.
"I think that they get it," Beilein said. "They understand that if you're going to win this league, you've got to win at home.
"Practice like you're in second place, but play like you're a champion -- we're practicing like we're in second place, because we are in second place."
It may be a bit too early to start pining over the league standings day in and day out, but with the level of competition in the Big Ten seemingly at an all-time high, every win absolutely means something -- whether it's home or away.
There's not a lot of room for error in this conference, and though it's only January, Michigan says it completely understands that.
"You can't help but see (the standings)," Morgan said. "But our coaches do a good job of keeping us focused on the moment.
"We don't really know what's going on (with the league) until it's over with. ... We're focusing on winning each and every game, and that's what's important right now."
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