Michigan Basketball: Can the Wolverines Make the Tournament?

(Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images)
(Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images) /

The Michigan Basketball team has shown some fight recently… but will it be enough?

It’s no secret that it’s been another disappointing year for Juwan Howard and the Michigan basketball team. For the second straight season, they started the year ranked, only to quickly fall to bubble (or worse) status.

The Wolverines looked great when they demolished Pittsburgh, but after that, the wheels fell off. They’ve lost many winnable games; notably against Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Central Michigan basketball. The Central Michigan loss hurts the most, but in reality, winning any of those could’ve changed this team’s trajectory.

After picking up two quality wins in a row, however, the Wolverines look like they may be getting on the right track. Talent-wise, there is no reason this team should not be in the tournament. This is undoubtedly a top-25 team in terms of talent, and there’s a legitimate argument for the top 10.

Juwan also appears to be figuring out what works best for the team, which is huge for the success of this team. Juwan’s had plenty of questionable moments this season, so to see that he’s improving is a very positive side.

Can Michigan basketball make the NCAA tournament?

At 13-10, however, the Wolverines have an uphill battle to make the tournament. Those losses I mentioned earlier are killer, and that Central Michigan loss alone could make them miss the tournament. To me, this team needs to win at least 5 of their last 8 to have any sort of chance. And then they need to make noise in the Big Ten Tournament.

That means the Wolverines are going to have to win two games out of Indiana (who they play twice), Michigan State, Rutgers, and Illinois. They also play Nebraska at home, and Wisconsin 2x, which is never easy. Indiana and Rutgers are both ranked, and Illinois is a borderline top-25 team. All of these teams are beatable, but Michigan will have to play their best ball to have a chance.

Realistically, the clearest path for Michigan basketball would be to beat Nebraska, and Wisconsin both times, Michigan State, and Indiana at home. Illinois is on the road, Rutgers is on the road, and one Indiana game is on the road. That’s a very tough task, and even that may not be enough. A big win on the road would be huge for Michigan’s chances, so we’ll have to cross our fingers for that.

While I will say I find it unlikely that the Wolverines win 5 or 6 of their last 8, let’s entertain the idea. At 18-13, the Wolverines would be on the bubble. With the state of the Big Ten, however, they could be a top 3-5 seed in the tournament. I think they’d need to make the semi-finals to feel somewhat confident. If they’re a top 4 seed, that would mean winning just one game.

Is it possible? Yes. Probable? Who knows. Last year, we saw this team come alive toward the end of the season. We need that to happen again. We’re going to see what this team is made of over the next couple of games. If they bring their A-game, they’re very much alive. If they slip up, hope may disappear.

Playing at home against Indiana on Saturday may be the biggest game remaining for Michigan basketball. If the Wolverines win, this thing feels a lot more possible. Let’s see what happens.

Next. Women's basketball roundup. dark

Go blue!