It’s true, so let’s go ahead and type it: Michigan’s 70-60 win Tuesday night at Ohio State put the Wolverines in the driver’s seat to win the Big Ten for a second time in three seasons.
“It’s great to be in this,” John Beilein said after notching Michigan’s first win in Columbus since 2003. “I don’t know if we expected this this year. We’re watching (Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.) in the NBA right now and they’re doing really well. I said, ‘geez, we better have made it to the Final Four last year.’ Those were really two good players.
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“When you have that drop off, I didn’t know where it was going to come from, especially on defense. It hasn’t been where it needs to be, but it’s getting better. We’ve got some kids who have been able to step up, different guys who have had really good games.”
The Wolverines are now 10-2 in conference play, already winning at places like Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State. The last time Michigan won at MSU, Ohio State and Wisconsin in the same season was 1993.
Here’s a look at Michigan’s remaining six games:
- Wisconsin, Feb. 16
- Michigan State, Feb. 23
- At Purdue, Feb. 26
- Minnesota, March 1
- At Illinois, March 4
- Indiana, March 8
No doubt, the next two games will be challenging, with the Badgers and Spartans on deck. But, both games are in Ann Arbor. Michigan is 10-1 in Crisler Center, with the lone loss coming on Dec. 14 vs. Arizona, a 72-70 setback vs. what at the time was the No. 1 team in the nation.
Making the Wolverines run to the top of standings all the more remarkable is the fact big man Mitch McGary hasn’t suited up for a single conference game because of a back injury. And, as Beilein mentioned, this is for a team that already had lost Burke and Hardaway from a squad that reached the national championship game last season.
Michigan’s main competition will be Michigan State (9-2 Big Ten) and Iowa (7-4). But they have bigger mountains to scale than Michigan. Check out their schedules:
- At Purdue
- At Michigan
- At Ohio State
- At Penn State
- At Indiana
- At Minnesota
- At Michigan State
No doubt, Iowa has the toughest road ahead of the three Big Ten contenders.
Knowing all that Michigan has done to this point, let’s go ahead and make Beilein the front-runner for Big Ten Coach of the Year while we’re at it. And, it’s a crowded field, as cases can be made for the likes of Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Iowa’s Fran McCaffery, Northwestern’s Chris Collins and Minnesota’s Richard Pitino.
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Still, all eyes will be on Beilein and Michigan down the homestretch. Can they finish the job?