It has been 2 weeks since my first State of the Season address, and in that time frame Michigan has gone 4-0 and been more impressive with each win. In the first installment I talked about how the main goal is to always win the Big Ten regular season above all else and how that should remain the goal even though the loss of Mitch McGary had just occurred and the mood of the fan base was a bit deflated. I’m sure some of you read that and laughed, I know a few of my friends did. But 4 wins later and Michigan sits at the top as 1 of 2 unbeaten in the league and faces a huge opportunity when they travel to East Lansing Saturday night. This team, and this season has life! So let’s look at the details and how this recent run has changed how we are perceived on the national landscape.
Record: 14-4, 6-0 conference
Ken Pomeroy: 10th
Jerry Palm: 5th seed vs. Play-in game winner in South Region
Joe Lunardi: 4th seed vs. Mercer in East Region
Theses numbers have drastically improved since we first looked at them 2 weeks ago. The biggest jump is in Michigan’s RPI ranking, as it has gone from 57 to 20 with Michigan’s current winning streak. The tournament projections are interesting, as both have Michigan playing in the 4 vs 5 game during the 1st weekend. I’ve always preferred that seeding for Michigan instead of a 3 seed because if seeding holds up, it gives Michigan a week to prepare for a 1 seed in the Sweet Sixteen instead of only a day and a half. And as we saw last year, Coach Beilein puts together a great game plan when he has that much time. But this is still January and a lot can happen between now and then so I won’t get too far ahead of myself. But Michigan is definitely trending in the right direction and the numbers show that.
What To Watch For
As I wrote in this section last time, Coach Beilein and Michigan like to view the conference season as 3, 6-game intervals. I really believed that a 5-1 start would have been a huge success, so obvious this start is beyond expectations. The win at Wisconsin was season changing and I think it made the goal of winning the Big Ten much more plausible. But as I mentioned last time, this 2nd 6-game stretch is really difficult. Starting with the game Saturday, Michigan has 4 of the next 6 on the road, all against teams that traditionally give them trouble when they play them away from Crisler (MSU-Ind-Iowa-Ohio). The home games are Nebraska and Purdue, both of which have been exceeding expectations of late and Nebraska already took Michigan to the wire. My point is that we may be in for a rough stretch and I see 3-3 in this second 6-game stint as being a positive and would leave Michigan at 9-3 and very much in the hunt as they head to the final 6 games which are much more forgiving. So nobody panic if Michigan drops a few in the next few weeks or even goes on a short losing streak. Nobody goes unbeaten in a league this strong, and even last year’s National Finalist lost at Penn State. Michigan has gotten off to a great start and has a HUGE opportunity Saturday against a now short handed Michigan State squad. Let’s hope this team stays hot and continues to play with the confidence we have seen in the last month. If so, I think we will be discussing Big Ten title scenarios during the next State of the Season… Go Blue!