One week ago, Michigan's chances for a Big Ten basketball championship appeared on par with Tom Izzo's shot at dunking over Dikembe Mutombo. Given an unlikely second chance, the Wolverines have to pursue it with passion.
They did exactly that on Sunday afternoon. They found themselves in a street fight against street fighters, and delivered the last punch. They didn't have to manufacture passion - they were battling for their Big Ten lives, in a match-up featuring more bad blood than a Red Cross van taking a V8 delivery by mistake.
The Wolverines were desperate
wounded, if you will, after getting hammered by Michigan State in East Lansing weeks earlier. But that's not all. They'd managed to drop one in State College to a team that had won as many Big Ten games as Tom Crean has "Best Coif" contests.
Forget the Brust Bomb in Madison. Forget Chernobyl at Izzoville. If Michigan just holds a 15-point lead in the final 10 minutes against the Big Ten's version of the Chicago Cubs, the Wolverines still control their own destiny.
But they didn't, and they didn't.
Thanks to their own gutty work in a gritty game, and Ohio State giving Crean the Dutch Rub on Senior Night, the Wolverines are right back where they started. Two wins, and they're Big Ten champs.
More than a few Michigan fans are rolling that word over on their tongues.
To get it done, they'll need to be even more desperate, even more passionate, even more fiercely defensive minded than they were against the Izzites. And that's no small task.
John Beilein appreciated the strides Michigan took in the MSU game. It's a lesson that has to stick, though - toughness counts as much as talent.
"We've been edging closer and closer to it in every practice this year, but it's still really hard," Beilein offered. "For us to actually go out and do what we did - and there are still some areas to clean up - in that game, in one of the most physically demanding games we play all year, it's a lot for us.
"To understand, okay, I survived, I can do it, and I can be better at it. I'm just really proud of the guys. When they went to the weight room yesterday, they felt good about themselves.
"There have been things we've been emphasizing, and maybe a few epiphanies in the middle of it as well, to say, 'Okay, I did it.' Hopefully, it will define this team even more down the road."
No better time for an epiphany than two wins away from a Big Ten title, with tournaments just around the corner. Purdue is no bargain, even in an off year, and Mackey Arena will be at jet engine decibels tonight.
Simply put, Michigan has to prove its passion. It has to play on the road for 40 minutes, not 30, with every ounce of grit it can muster.
Redshirt junior Jordan Morgan delivered that message almost a week ago, in the players-only meeting following the Penn State meltdown. Other spoke of missed assignments, better defense, and accountability in technical aspects.
Morgan wanted to remind a group of college athletes to rediscover the passion for the game they all love.
was a little different," Morgan shared. "It was more about the passion we play with. When we started the season, before we were even playing games, we were practicing every day to get better, and it was fun for us to come and get better.
"I just felt like after losing some tough games - close games, games that weren't close - I didn't feel that same passion from this team. The passion to win, the passion to have fun, to get better
it was starting to get like 'We're back at the gym again,' instead of, 'We're back doing what we love to do again.'
"I just encouraged everybody to think back to what it was like when we started the season - that feeling that we had, coming into practice."
There's no better time to think that way, because time is running out. They all thought about a Big Ten championship before the season. Suddenly, there's one to be had.
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