March 11, 2013
Borton's Blog: The Checklist
As John Beilein noted, the sun rose again on Monday. There's no visual confirmation of that fact, with southeast Michigan looking cloudier than Tom Crean's face amid a supposed championship celebration. But Beilein's point still stands.
Michigan basketball is not done. The utter devastation of Sunday - bye-bye Big Ten championship - gives way to Monday's wide-open landscape of opportunity.
The Wolverines might be the No. 5 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, almost unfathomably playing on the first day amid the conference low-renters. But they're No. 6 in the nation in the Associated Press poll, revealing not only what voters think of the Wolverines but of the Big Ten as a whole.
More importantly, Beilein's Boys have a list to check off. This week, the boxes beckoning look something like this
Penn State -- Yes, the Nittany Lions managed to win all of two games the entire Big Ten season. But you know who absorbed one of those, after leading by 15 with 10 minutes to play. Penn State has played much better at the end of the season, Wisconsin's narrow escape in State College providing further confirmation.
But for a Michigan team looking at a long weekend in Chicago, and a scramble toward an elite seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Nittany Lions need to represent a flying beetle encountering the business end of a Mack truck.
It's the perfect start to Revenge Week.
Wisconsin -- The Badgers were leaking oil down the stretch in the Big Ten season. They lost at home to Purdue, scored 43 points in a no-chance beat-down at Michigan State (sound familiar?) and required a last-second bomb to pull out a win against Penn State (sound familiar?).
The Wolverines found themselves flat Brusted in Madison, but it could be - and probably should be - a different story on Day 2 in Chicago. The Badgers feature a big man playing on one leg, and an offense-challenged crew. The Wolverines, meanwhile, will be spurred on by multiple motivations, not the least of which involves a big chunk of cheese that got away in Madison.
Indiana -- Michigan lost to the high-flying Hoosiers twice, once by eight at Assembly Hall, again when Jordan Morgan's put-back trickled off the rim at Crisler. They say it's hard to beat a team three times, and the Wolverines would obviously like to beat Crean once, if for no other reason than to beat the smirk out of him.
Much has been made of his classless, on-court verbal assault on a Michigan assistant coach when he should have been celebrating a Big Ten championship. Whereas Crean's jackwagon act isn't exactly breaking news to those who know him in the coaching community, his bizarre drive-by and maniacal grin afterwards still made plenty of headlines.
Trace his roots, and you'll see Crean comes by it honestly. But this isn't about that.
This is about Indiana and Michigan, two top-five teams in the pre-season, two top-six teams even after the hand-to-hand combat of the past 10 weeks. This would represent the biggest checkmark of all, both in the Karma Column and the Hey, NCAA shout-out.
Michigan State -- No explanation necessary.
Yes, it's a miserable Monday inside Crisler Center. But they're wiping off the caked-on awful from Sunday, and applying a fresh coat of why not for Revenge Week. When you're as young as they are, that can happen pretty quickly.
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