By: Dan Leach
1-CONFIDENCE- For all the good vibrations the Wolverines got back after the “Beatdown In Breslin”, they lost it with the “Horror In Happy Valley.” This is still an ultra-talented team, but a team that has lost some of its belief in itself after losses. You could see Trey Burke start to question himself in the final minutes against Penn State and when your no-doubt leader starts to look shaken, it can send shockwaves throughout the squad. Having multiple freshmen who are contributing brings another element when it comes to confidence going forward. Many of them like GR3, Mitch McGary, and Nik Stauskas will be called upon heavily in March and will make or break the Wolverines’ ability to navigate through the tournament. If they start to question themselves late in the season after most of them have had solid years so far, things could end quickly. It is games like these when you know there is added importance, which by winning can help shape a team for a run in March.
2-SEEDING-Michigan entered the game at Penn State as a projected number one seed in the NCAA tournament and left as a three seed in my bracket and many of the national ones. Yes, a regular season B10 game might not seem as important as a B10 tournament game, but this game could either springboard or sink Michigan going forward over the next couple of weeks. With games against MSU, Purdue, and Indiana left, if Michigan lost two of the three they could drop to the 5-seed in the B10 tourney, having to play on the first day in Chicago. Making it that much tougher to get to traverse the B10 tournament and with an early exit, could drop like a sack of potatoes to a possible 5-seed in the NCAA tourney. Bottom line Michigan really needs to win the rest of the way if they want to have a chance at a 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA’s which makes things so much easier in the first couple of rounds.
3-PRIDE-We all know how visceral the crowd and atmosphere was at Breslin on February 12th. This is a rivalry that cuts very deep and now with Michigan’s program in its best position during the Izzo years; it means even that much more. You could see what that loss in East Lansing did to Michigan, they seem shocked, exposed, gasping for air even as they played Penn State five days later. Now they come off a shocker to the Nittany Lions, but come home for the biggest game of the year so far. This is their chance to take back some of what they lost that night. The Crisler Center will be rocking, a national TV audience will be watching, and Michigan has the chance to right the ship in the most pivotal of times this season. The Wolverines have yet to lose at home which is something no other B10 team can say. This is where you find out who you really are right now against a team that is going to throw everything at you from the start. This is what this young Michigan team will experience in every tournament game they play and they get a chance to rise to that occasion in a regular season game that will have all the look and feel of a Final Four game.