Michigan basketball team rides hot streak into final weeks of Big Ten chaos
Seven days remain in the Big Ten basketball regular season and plenty remains up in the air.
Three teams remain alive for the league title — Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin. Those three schools have secured byes in next week’s Big Ten Tournament and are locks for the NCAA Tournament.
After that, it becomes really interesting.
Three teams — Illinois, Michigan State and Penn State — are tied for fourth at 8-8. Michigan is a half-game behind at 8-9. Between the final week of the regular season and the conference tournament the following week, a lot will be decided.
Illinois (18-11) has lost four of its last seven, and finishes with Purdue and Indiana on Saturday. Michigan State (16-12), which has won three of its last five, closes with Iowa at home on Wednesday and then at Michigan on Saturday. Penn State (15-12), which has lost four of its last seven, hosts Ohio State on Tuesday and then travels to Minnesota on Sunday.
And Michigan (18-12) has won five of seven with Michigan State left.
Some of those teams might back into the NCAAs. The Wolverines have been surging.
“We’re right back now,” Michigan junior guard Zack Novak said. “The way the thing’s going, everybody keeps losing. It seems like nobody wants to get in.
“We’re just going to control what we can control and deal with what we can.”
Michigan did that Saturday when it probably popped Minnesota’s bubble in a 70-63 victory that sent the Gophers to 6-10 in the Big Ten. Minnesota, once thought to be a NCAA tournament lock, has lost seven of its last eight games.
For Minnesota it was a loss that may have broken its season. For Michigan, it might have saved it.
“Honestly, it was,” junior guard Stu Douglass said. “We needed this to get back on track, to prove to ourselves the improvement we’ve had the last few games, the last couple of weeks in practice will pay off. It showed (Saturday).
“It’ll be huge for us to carry it over to Michigan State.”
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