Next for the Michigan basketball team in the Big Ten tournament - top-seeded Ohio State
And Michigan, the eighth seed and 15-16 overall, carries confidence into Friday’s game (noon, ESPN). The Wolverines beat Ohio State, 73-64 on Jan. 3 when the Buckeyes were without potential national player of the year Evan Turner, and they lost to the Buckeyes, 66-55 on Feb. 27.
“We did play them tough,” sophomore guard Zack Novak said. “We beat them for a whole game, beat them for a half. They got us for one half this year, so we’re confident going in, and coach is going to do a good job to get it prepared.
“This is kind of what he does, he gets in a tournament where they can’t go over everything, and be a little bit of a chess match and see what happens.”
The difference now is Ohio State is safely in the NCAA tournament and playing for a No. 1 seed. Michigan is playing for its season to continue.
“Once you get to the quarterfinals, then, now this is like the old eight-team leagues now,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “You’re down to eight teams and you’re three wins away from really a magical experience for these guys to go through, given the type of season that we’ve had.
“But it’s got to go through Ohio State, so it’s, you have to get that win to continue to advance, but it would be great to beat them.”
Still, it is nothing like the football rivalry, which is one of the most bitter in the league.
“It might be a little different from the sense of a tradition standpoint, instead of hating (Jon) Diebler or hating (Evan) Turner completely, hating them individually,” sophomore guard Stu Douglass said. “Growing up, I never experienced the Michigan tradition and stuff like that, but at the same time you don’t want to disappoint the people that have their entire lives.
“You kind of play for that a little bit, almost. It’s something I’ve kind of realized a little bit this year. It grows on you, and it’ll definitely grow on me as the years go on.”
Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan basketball for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein.