Well most eyes were on the NBA All-Star game last night, a select few people in America had their eyes on a college basketball game.
For those who did pick the Michigan versus Minnesota game, they got to watch a “barn burner”.
With the physicality evident on both teams, it was a back and fourth battle where both teams desperately were looking to build their NCAA Tournament resume.
In the end, it was the Gophers coming out with the 83-78 overtime thriller to put another solid win on their record, while the Wolverines hot streak of three-straight wins finally came to an end.
The Wolverines played their hearts out. With the game coming down to one last shot and the score being 72-69 in favor of the Gophers, D.J. Wilson nailed a beyond NBA range triple to send the game to overtime.
With the Wolverines down just a 3-pointer again and under 10 seconds left in overtime, Derrick Walton Jr., who led the team in scoring again with 16 points, put up a triple with three seconds left but it rimmed out, essentially ending the game.
So the question is now, where does Michigan go from here?
There is no panic needed. In reality, last nights win would’ve been great to have because with the way I see it, it would’ve gave Michigan two quality road wins, and as long as they didn’t trip up against lesser competition after that, they were a lock.
However, the Wolverines now are back on the NCAA tournament bubble, but not necessarily on the wrong side of it like they were not to long ago.
Those three consecutive wins Michigan put together consisted of: a pounding of Michigan State, a solid road win at Indiana, and a win over a Top 25 opponent in Wisconsin.
After looking at that with a 17-10 record, and their worse loss according to the RPI being at Iowa, losing in overtime to a good Minnesota team doesn’t look as bad.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, who does NCAA Tournament Bracketology, seems to be on the same page as myself. Lunardi has the Wolverines trending in an upward direction as a No. 9 seed, taking on VCU (No. 8) in the East Region.
That’s a pretty fair spot to place the Wolverines with their resume so far, so how do they trend further up in seeding?
It’s simple, win at least one more big game and take care of business.
Michigan’s final four games of the season consists of: playing at Rutgers (very winnable), playing their final home game against No. 16 Purdue (difficult) and then finishing out the season on the road against Northwestern and Nebraska (winnable).
If Michigan can simply not slip up against Rutgers or Nebraska, beat Purdue or a highly seeded team in the Big Ten Tournament, and get a key road win against Northwestern, I could see the Wolverines sitting at a six or a seven seed.
Nothing is guaranteed with this team though, as we’ve seen all season. If Michigan loses to Northwestern or Nebraska, I think they will need at least a first round Big Ten Tournament win, and possibly one more against whoever they play next.
Regardless, winning in the first round of the B1G tournament will be key, because a slip up there will leave their NCAA Tournament hopes completely up to the selection committee.
Right now the goal remains the same for John Beilein and his team: take care of business, and take it one game at a time.
If Michigan can keep playing like they have lately, this team won’t have any problem making it in, the real question will be how far can they go? Only time will tell.