The seventh-ranked Michigan Wolverines came into Sunday’s game against the Illinois Fighting Illini with a chance to move up the rankings and potentially get themselves in line for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines struggled through the first half but opened the second half on a 13-3 run to defeat Illinois 71-58. Michigan moved to 23-4 overall while Illinois fell to 20-9. If Michigan wants to make a serious run towards a national championship, it is going to come down to two players for the Wolverines.
This team is built to win on the strength of Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Trey Burke. Burke is averaging nearly 19 points a game as a sophomore for this Michigan team and there is no doubt in my mind that he will leave to enter the draft after this season ends especially if Michigan wins a title. Hardaway Jr. is the son of former NBA star Tim Hardaway and with Hardaway Jr. possibly thinking the same thing about the draft after this season, this becomes the most pressure-packed couple weeks for Michigan in quite a while.
I think this will be the last ride for Burke and Hardaway Jr. and getting a win to move closer to having that coveted No. 1 seed will just propel Michigan to get their focus on winning this season before the team gets broken up. That is the nature of major college basketball these days though with players leaving as freshmen or sophomores. Michigan needs to savor this opportunity with Burke and Hardaway Jr. together this year.