Is This Already A Lost Season For Juwan Howard?
Probably! But the future is still bright for Michigan. A conference rival provides reason for hope.
As of the moment I’m writing this post, Michigan expects to play Friday night’s game at Illinois, ending a two-game layoff because of a COVID outbreak.
That means the team has at least seven healthy players available. How many and which players they have ready are questions I cannot answer; the situation could easily change before tipoff regardless.
Just getting the game in would be a good start for the Wolverines. They’ve been stuck at 7-6 (1-2 Big Ten) for nine days and played only three games in the last month. The remaining schedule doesn’t leave a lot of room for make-up games. The longest scheduled layoffs have four days between games and M is slated to play two games per week from here on out.
Michigan is currently the seventh team out of the NCAA Tournament field in the Bracket Matrix. Unless they play like an entirely different team, and soon, the outlook is likely more bleak than that.
Even if you believe this team has the potential for a turnaround, the lost opportunities of 2021 may doom them in 2022. Michigan is 0-4 against Q1 and 0-2 versus Q2 opponents in the current NET rankings, which provide the foundation for the tournament committee.
That gives them little margin for error the rest of the way. Clawing to 10-10 in the conference only gets Michigan one of the last four tourney bids, according to Bart Torvik’s Teamcast tool, and that’s an optimistic projection by a game from where the team currently stands. It also puts the team in peril of losing a spot to conference tourney champion bid thieves.
Every team with a similar resumé as the one Michigan is projected to have missed the tournament:
The good news is a couple upset wins could still dramatically change the team’s postseason outlook. The bad news is that also applies to any further losses — Minnesota and Rutgers are 2-0 against Michigan and 2-6 against the rest of the Big Ten.
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