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Posted on Mon, Feb 13, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

Now is the time for Michigan basketball team to start discussing the possibility of its first Big Ten title since 1986

By Nick Baumgardner


Michigan coach John Beilein said last month "we never even touch on" the Big Ten standings. On Monday, he said he'll talk to the Wolverines about the championship picture this week.

Angela J. Cesere |

One month ago, John Beilein wasn't interested in the Big Ten standings.

Now, things are different.

The Michigan basketball coach admitted Monday he'd spend some time addressing the Big Ten championship picture with his team this week.

And, more specifically, how the Wolverines now find themselves with a realistic shot at their first regular-season league crown since 1986.

"They know the standings," Beilein said of his team on the Big Ten coaches teleconference. "You do the math and you see right away that we have a great opportunity here."

With just five games remaining, Michigan (19-7, 9-4 Big Ten) sits a half game behind co-Big Ten leaders Michigan State and Ohio State.

The Wolverines will have a chance to either pass or pull even with the Buckeyes on Saturday when OSU visits the Crisler Center (9 p.m., ESPN).

After beating Michigan State at home in mid-January and briefly moving into first place, Beilein said he had no discussions with his team about the situation, saying "we never even touch on it."

At that time, Michigan still had roughly half of its schedule in front of it. But now, the Wolverines are less than a month away from postseason play and a Big Ten crown is still a very real possibility.

Beilein says now is as good of a time as any to remind his club of that.

"(Some players) don't read the newspaper or look at the standings very often," he said. "They know we're in it, but maybe they don't know how close it is, or how quickly it could change with a few wins here or there."

The last time Beilein found himself in position for a regular-seaosn title this late in the season came during his fourth year at West Virginia (2005-06), when his club ultimately settled for third in the Big East before advancing to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament.

For Michigan? There have been scattered near-misses at a regular-season Big Ten crown, but it's been 26 years since the Wolverines finished the league schedule with a trophy.

And now, with five games left and a title shot in sight, Beilein wants to make sure his team's well aware of the situation.

"A (conference) tourney championship is wonderful, but winning a regular-season Big Ten championship is very unique," Beilein said. "It hasn't happened here in a long time, and we'd love for our guys to believe they could be special and do something like that.

"If you don't get there, it's not the end of the world. ... Dream big, but focus small. (A Big Ten title) is the dream, but we've still got to focus on the day-to-day task of being a better team."

More 'Ohio' talk

Beilein again referred to Ohio State as "Ohio" multiple times Monday.

And, as was the case last month following a 64-49 loss to the Buckeyes in Columbus, he was asked why.

"I don't think there's any message, (Michigan football coach Brady Hoke) calls them Ohio and for some uniformity, we (do too)," Beilein said. "We had no meeting (to discuss it), Brady's called them Ohio and it sounds like (we needed) some uniformity here."


Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. hits a 3-pointer over Illinois' Joseph Betrand on Sunday.

Chris Asadian |

Balance is the key

Michigan finished its 70-61 win over Illinois with four players in double figures, the seventh time that's happened this season.

With Tim Hardaway Jr. and Evan Smotrycz struggling through shooting slumps over the past month, Beilein talked Monday about how important the scoring balance on his roster has been.

Presently, six players average at least seven points per game, and the Wolverines have had five different players finish with game-high scoring numbers throughout the season.

"That's been a key to our success so far," Beilein said. "We haven't had to rely on one or two guys to do it every day, and if they don't have a good game, we have no chance.

"That would've made us something like a .500 team right now."

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan basketball for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.

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Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 4:29 p.m.

I need to say it. I am embarrassed and ashamed to see the continued use of "Ohio" when referring to our rival. Is this really what we have come to as a society and a university community? I urge the university, the athletic department, the coaches and students to return to the UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN 'high road' and begin to show some respect -- please, let's get back to a heated rivalry with Ohio State!


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 1:56 a.m.

This article is absurd


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 4:02 a.m.

Its just a homer article, and not a bad one at that. The last 2-3 weeks Nick had a weekly article in which he educated us that we were actually better than 1 or 2 B1G teams that were higher ranked by national consensus. That's ok, its good to be optimistic.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 1:01 a.m.

We need to run The Spread.


Mon, Feb 13, 2012 : 10:43 p.m.

Yes. Do it now, while fans can still hope and dream. Reality will come crashing down soon enough.


Mon, Feb 13, 2012 : 9:54 p.m.

I'd love a Big Ten Title but it's probably an outside shot at best. This team has some difficult issues to overcome (cold-shooting and injuries) that will make it an uphill battle. It's hard to believe that 1986 was our last title. I had season tickets that year and it was exciting. You can badmouth Bill Frieder all you want, but no coach after him has won a B10 title. And that includes Steve Fisher with all of the McDonald's All-Americans he brought in here. It's hard to believe the talented 1989 team didn't win one. We're overdue for sure.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 1:50 a.m.

And to add onto what you are saying: Frieder would get criticized for having defenses that gave up the baseline way too easy, for losing in the tournament, etc. But his teams shot above 50% and they scored upwards of 100 pretty often. And 2 straight REAL b10 championships are nothing to sneeze at. But he dug his own grave by his actions. It's time, though, that he gets some appreciation for real accomplishments. His teams were good.


Mon, Feb 13, 2012 : 8:53 p.m.

The B1G regular season championship is possible as long as UM could focus enough and win games they are expected to lose like this game against Ohio State at Crisler. Win that one, then surely UM is running for the B1G championship. This team is inconsistent, the offense is inconsistent, they win and then lose in one week and sometimes they score then they don't. Beating MSU twice was good, but they did not, now is the chance to beat Ohio State this Saturday. Consistency is the key for championships. Hardaway and Smotrycz should score heavily to win, they cannot rely on Burke to score for them.


Mon, Feb 13, 2012 : 7:39 p.m.

Nothing would make me happier than to send Zack Novak and Stu Douglass out as Big Ten Champions. But let's not get toooo far ahead of ourselves. Assuming we beat Ohio, and that is a mammoth assumption, we basically need to win out. Our schedule stacks up nicely in terms of who we play the rest of the way, but 3 of those games (NW,ILL, PSU) are on the road. Michigan is not a particularly good road team which makes none of those games gimmes. And don't count out Wisconsin and Indiana who are not too far behind. There are still 5 teams legitimately in the race. Just about guaranteed that the Big Ten regular season champ won't be crowned until the last second has ticked off the clock of the very last game. Great if JB can use our standing as a motivator. But as a fan, 5 games left to play in a tight race is way too early to be getting my hopes up. GO BLUE!