On Sunday afternoon at Crisler Arena, it was all or nothing for the Michigan Wolverines basketball team. Before an energetic fan base, Trey Burke and company fell to the #2 Indiana Hoosiers with a heart-breaking loss that will haunt them for some time.
Michigan went into the game against the Indiana Hoosiers knowing that it had to get a home win to secure a share of the Big Ten Conference Championship. Win and be a part of a four-way tie; lose and see Indiana win their first Conference Championship outright since 1993. When all was said and done, the Hoosiers held on for an unbelievable 72-71 victory.
The Wolverines lost focus down the stretch and forgot about the fundamentals of basketball. For all the 3-point shots the team nailed (10-for-22 for 45.5%), the team wasn’t able to hit its free throws (7-for-13 for 53.8%). It’s hard for a team to win in March when they only hit around 50% of their free throws. To make matters worse, the Hoosiers dominated the Wolverines on the boards with a rebound advantage of 47-26. The full list of stats can be seen in the box score.
Ultimately, the Wolverines blew a 70-66 late lead and even in doing so, had the ball in the final possession. With a chance to win, Trey Burke penetrated for a contested shot that just missed and was followed up by center Jordan Morgan. Morgan’s ball rolled around the rim for what seemed like an eternity and the rim proved to be unkind to the Wolverines. In the simplest terms, 1 point cost the team a Conference Championship.
To make matters worse, the heated game got a little feisty after the final buzzer rang. Indiana coach, Tom Crean, went after Michigan assistant, Jeff Meyer. The video clip can be seen here. Later on, Crean apologized. Crean is the brother-in-law of the Super Bowl brothers, Jim and John Harbaugh. The fired-up attitudes must be a family trait.
Indiana coach Tom Crean in a text said he apologized to Michigan assistant Jeff Meyer for his on-court confrontation.
— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) March 11, 2013
Tom Crean got into it twice postgame with a Michigan assistant. Wild scene here in Ann Arbor
— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) March 10, 2013
Not only was the loss the first home loss of the season for the Wolverines but it dropped the team in the standings for the upcoming Big Ten Basketball Tournament. Michigan is now at #5 seed in the tournament this weekend in Chicago and will no longer receive a first round bye. The Wolverines will start off tournament play against #12 Penn State on Thursday afternoon. Yes, the same Penn State team that upset the Wolverines not too long ago. In all honesty, a case can be made that Michigan lost the Big Ten Conference when it lost to the Nittany Lions.
For Michigan State Spartan fans hoping for a rematch against the Wolverines, you’ll have to be patient. With the way the bracket stands now, the two teams from Michigan won’t meet unless both of them reach the Conference Championship game. Here’s hoping both teams can take care of business and push through for what would surely be a memorable championship game Sunday.
For fans of the Maize and Blue looking for a glass half-full perspective, there is some good news. As it stands now, fans of the Michigan Wolverines can rest assured that their Wolverines may be staying close to home for the Madness of March that approaches. USA TODAY‘s latest bracket prediction has Michigan as a #3 seed in the East region and opening up with games in Auburn Hills.
While the loss to Indiana is depressing, it’s important to remember that bigger goals lie ahead. Conference Championship banners are nice but just ask the people of East Lansing what means the most and it’s simple. Final Fours and NCAA Championships.
Making free throws and rebounding are necessities for a basketball team this time of year. Time to go to work for the Ann Arbor crew.