INDIANAPOLIS — No. 8 Michigan ended one championship drought by winning its first outright Big Ten crown last week.
Now the Wolverines will get a chance to end another title drought in the conference tournament, which has been filled with some of the school’s most forgettable basketball moments — from Evan Turner’s 40-foot buzzer-beater for Ohio State to the embarrassment of having the 1998 title stripped away because of NCAA sanctions.
Maybe this time, Michigan can put those images behind it for good.
“You’ve just got to go and get through those first games and really play well,” coach John Beilein said before leaving for Indianapolis. “You’ve got to find ways to get lucky and got to find times to play hard and if you can, you’ll be sitting there in the championship game.”
The Wolverines (23-7) are the favorite.
They have the conference’s player of the year, Nik Stauskas, and the media’s choice for coach of the year in Beilein. They have a five-game winning streak and 15 wins in conference play. They have multiple NBA prospects and for the first time in school history, the defending national runner-ups are seeded No. 1.
But Beilein also is well aware of what can go wrong in the postseason.
He led the Wolverines to semifinal appearances in 2011 and 2012, but they haven’t played for a title since or won more than one game in a single tourney since that ‘98 championship run, which was later expunged.
Michigan’s march toward redemption begins Friday against either eighth-seeded Indiana (17-14) or ninth-seeded Illinois (18-13, who play at 11 a.m. today.
No. 24 Ohio State (23-8), the five seed, plays 12th-seeded Purdue (15-16) in today’s other afternoon game. Seventh-seeded Minnesota faces 10th-seeded Penn State, while sixth-seeded Iowa and 11th-seeded Northwestern meet in tonight’s games.