What was an incredible atmosphere at the Crisler Center for a joyous Senior Day and a shot at a huge win for Michigan to claim a share of the Big Ten regular season title, turned into a sad day for the Wolverines. They choked in the final minute against Indiana to lose out on the the Big Ten title, lose their first-round bye and end several Michigan players’ careers on a sour note in their final home game.
But is not all doom and gloom for Michigan.
First off, this game proved once again that Michigan can play with anyone in the country. After losing to Penn State, real doubts about how good this team was crept up. Their fantastic 16-0 start started to feel like it never happened, after they had lost four of seven games in February. But by beating Michigan State and coming so very close to beating Indiana within a week, Michigan showed that they still can play with and beat the big boys.
The fact that they have Trey Burke doesn’t hurt. He missed the front-end of a one-and-one that arguably would have won the game for Michigan in an uncharacteristically un-clutch play. I believe Burke is the best player in the country and the fact that he can put the team on his back is very reassuring for an otherwise inconsistent Michigan team. Everybody on the Michigan team and coaching staff trusts Burke completely in big moments and that means a lot.
While the loss to Indiana may feel like the end of the world for Michigan fans, it really isn’t in the long-term. The only ramifications that impact the team for the rest of the season are that Michigan has to play Penn State on Thursday in the first-round of the Big Ten Tourney and the elimination of a long-shot at a no. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan was likely to be a no. 2 or 3 seed anyway, and the loss to Indiana does not change very much.
If anything, a date with Penn State might be just what the doctor ordered for Michigan; the last relatively poor opponent they will have before the NCAA Tournament. If they lose to Penn State for a second time, which is extremely unlikely as Michigan should come in angry and energized, then they don’t deserve to go anywhere anyway.
Throughout this Big Ten season, the ups and downs have been dramatic for Michigan and really everybody else in the conference. But it is important to remember to look at the big picture sometimes. Beating Indiana would have been terrific for Michigan, but at the end of the day, they are still in very good position to achieve their primary goal: win a national championship.