You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 1:01 p.m.

Roadblock lifted: Michigan basketball team in position as Big Ten contender

By Nick Baumgardner

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — There are two schools of thought on whether or not the Michigan basketball team's visit to Purdue on Tuesday night was a "must win" scenario.

The first says, no, it's January. There's no such thing as a must-win game this early.

The second, though, sounds a bit different.

If the Wolverines were serious about contending for a Big Ten championship this season, then beating the Boilermakers on the road Tuesday was something that needed to happen.

"This was a game, regardless of where we were at, we had to win," Michigan senior guard Zack Novak said after the 66-64 victory. "That's a huge win."


Tim Hardaway Jr. and the Michigan players were happy to win on the road at Purdue. "It was very frustrating," Hardaway said of Michigan's road struggles. "That played a big factor in this game."

Associated Press

Novak's right, for more than one reason.

Entering the game, Michigan was winless on the road this season. For the past few weeks, coach John Beilein and players had been peppered with questions about what's wrong with the group away from home, if the team had a different mindset on the road and when, exactly, was this skid going to stop?

Each time, coach and players brushed it off. It wasn't a big deal, they weren't worried, wins will come.

It finally came Tuesday, and though they wouldn't talk about it during the slide, the Wolverines admitted road aggravation was starting to creep in.

"It was very frustrating," Michigan sophomore forward Tim Hardaway Jr. said. "That played a big factor in this game.

"We really just didn't want to leave here with that same taste in our mouth."

Winning on the road wasn't something the Michigan program needed to take a step forward, Beilein's gotten the Wolverines beyond that in the grand scheme of things.

But for this group, the 2011-12 team, it was necessary. Because, simply, you can't win a Big Ten title unless you beat people in their own house.

"This was huge for us," Michigan senior guard Stu Douglass said. "It was a big statement for us, because we've got a lot of road tests (left).

"We've got to get used to this kind of stuff."

A loss Tuesday wouldn't have just worsened Michigan's frustration away from home, it would've made the Wolverines' footing in the Big Ten race much less firm.

The Wolverines became the first team to five league wins last week against Michigan State, and now are the first to six.

Regardless of what happens elsewhere, Michigan will travel to Columbus on Sunday as a first-place team, and likely will be fighting to get a leg-up on Big Ten defending champion Ohio State on national television.

From there, Michigan's next road test comes against fellow contender Michigan State — and a win in East Lansing on Super Bowl Sunday can clinch a second straight sweep, and give the Wolverines an outright tiebreak against the Spartans for league standing purposes.

"This was big," Novak said. "We've traditionally been a pretty big road team, but now this group has learned what you need to do at the end of games to will one out.

"And now, we can just do it again."

Championship teams don't have to win every road game they play, but they need to win the ones they're supposed to.

Michigan was supposed to beat Purdue on Tuesday, and it came through. Are the Wolverines a legit Big Ten championship contender?

They're 16-5, 6-2 in league play and currently in first place with 10 games remaining.

As of right now, I say, why not?

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

Want to stay connected to Wolverine basketball in your Facebook newsfeed? “Like”'s Michigan Basketball News & Views.



Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:07 a.m.

This team is a cardiac win team as of the moment. Better to win close than lose close but no game is a sure win. The real test will be at Ohio State and at Michigan State, win both, then UM will most likely be the B1G champs. Split the two games is still good and very possible as both OSU and MSU are beatable this year, in fact UM already beat MSU. We will see starting with Ohio State.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 11:54 p.m.

A loss would have put Michigan behind Harvard in the polls and been a true embarassment to Beilein (at least it should have been). I still feel that if Harvard finishes the season ranked higher than Michigan Beilein should go.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

Since when was Harvard the measuring stick? Beilein is on the verge of 3 NCAA appearances with Michigan in 5 years while Harvard's coach was 0/6 in that department while at Michigan


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.

Are you nuts? Who are you going to replace him with? Have you seen his recruiting class for 2012 ?!? Beilein is starting to peak on recruiting, and his methods have never been wrong. Solid defense, always hustle, shoot when you feel confident. We just lacked a physical presence inside. That changes starting next year - watch out for BLUE.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 1:15 a.m.

Yeah, but our chemistry team can beat their chemistry team!!!


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 6:36 p.m.

It is do able.