So far during this conference tournament season, it doesn’t seem like there is one team that wants the final No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. But the Michigan Wolverines are making the case to grab that last spot as they beat the Ohio State Buckeyes, 72-69, in the Big Ten semifinals on Saturday.
The Wolverines got quite the battle from their rival after opening up with a quick double-digit lead only to see it evaporate in the second half. Michigan’s offense came out roaring and while the defense usually sat back, it closed on Ohio State shooters enough to force misses. The Buckeyes’ defense finally settled in and helped bring them back to take a second-half lead. Michigan did not lose confidence despite losing the lead. Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskas showed exactly why he won the award when he went baseline with just under two minutes remaining and scored off a whirling reverse layup to give the Wolverines a three-point lead. Michigan held Ohio State down on defense, grabbed a crucial offensive rebound with 6.2 seconds remaining and Spike Albrecht knocked in a free throw to close out the game.
Michigan — by many standards — is considered the highest No. 2 seed for the tournament, and because the Villanova Wildcats and Kansas Jayhawks both slipped in their conference tournaments, the No. 1 seed chances have increased. Michigan probably has to win the Big Ten tournament championship to lock in the No. 1 seed. Still, grabbing the final spot is not that important because the Wolverines will be the highest ranked No. 2 and will be on the opposite end of their region with the same team that would be there in either case.
Michigan is looking like a top-ranked team, and having been tested all season in the Big Ten, they should be ready for all comers next week.