Rarely does the #3 team in the country, with a record of 20-2, run into a must-win game. But that is exactly what I think Michigan is facing tonight as they host #10 Ohio State at Crisler.
Michigan’s ranking says that they are an elite team in college basketball, and most games they show it. Rough starts in Columbus and Indiana cost this team early on and led to the two losses on the season. The Wolverines get credit for working to make those games close, but falling behind double digits is not a sign of the elite.
This game is hugely important because everyone in the top of the Big Ten is expected to win at home and hope to steal a few on the road. Michigan has been unable to steal that big road victory and cannot allow the Buckeyes to come to Ann Arbor and do so tonight.
The Big Ten race is going to be very tight with Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and even Wisconsin and Minnesota all very strong teams and likely to be above average seeds in the NCAA tournament.
Michigan needs to come out strong this game and take it to Ohio State just like the Buckeyes did earlier this season in Columbus. Use the energy of the crowd to take control of the game from the start and don’t let Ohio State get in a rhythm at all.
Being able to win this game is also important because of the schedule remaining including the home-and-home with Michigan State, at Wisconsin and the season finale with the Hoosiers coming back to Ann Arbor. This game with the Buckeyes could and should go a long way in determining if this team gets a number one seed in the NCAA tournament, and that is an advantage any team would take.