The Michigan Wolverines continued to roll on Tuesday night as they downed Ohio State 65-49 and moved into a tie for first place in the Big Ten with Michigan State.
This will be the only time the Buckeyes and the Wolverines face each other this season unless of course they run into one another in Chicago for the Big Ten Tourney. OSU has now lost 6 out of 7 since starting the rest of Big Ten play and Michigan has won 3 in a row since dropping its first game to Wisconsin a couple weeks ago. The Wolverines are rolling once again entering arguably their toughest stretch of the schedule with ten games remaining in the regular season.
The month of February will be huge for not just the Wolverines but the Big Ten in general as currently most projections have the Big Ten with ten teams in the NCCA tournament. This could change quickly as the conference has been beating up on each other since play resumed, all besides the Wolverines and the Spartans.
Although before the big in-state clash between U of M and MSU at Crisler, Michigan has quite the road ahead of them. Michigan opened the last full month of the regular season with a loss at a hostile environment in Iowa City against the Hawkeyes. Michigan will stay on the road and a few days later on February 5th will face off with Rutgers in New Jersey. Rutgers, although 4-6 in the Big Ten, have knocked off Ohio State and Indiana both at home this season and may not be an easy outing like you would think for the Wolverines.
Michigan will then return to Crisler Center to face the team that gave them their current sole lost of the season, the #24 Wisconsin Badgers on February 9th. Last time Ethan Happ torched the Wolverines for 26 points and will look to do so again as Michigan seemed to not have answer for the senior guard. This is the toughest home game left on Michigan's schedule before MSU and unlike the Michigan football squad, John Beilien and crew are looking to get revenge on Wisconsin. Another road test after the Badgers match up will have Michigan in Happy Valley facing Penn State on February 12th , who is in last place in the Big Ten with an 0-9 record. A trap game sort of comes to mind but I could also see this resulting in another strong outing by the Michigan defense holding Penn State under 50 points.
Back home as #21 Maryland comes in to Ann Arbor, another team that can score some points and the match up down low between Michigan big Jon Teske and Terrapin Forward Bruno Fernando will be the big focus of this game, as a win here could help Michigan's case even more for a #1 seed come march, especially if they have won every game mentioned until this match up with Maryland. On the road again, Michigan will travel to face off with Richard Pitino's Golden Gophers on February 21st in Minnesota, a team that almost stole one in Ann Arbor from the Wolverines a few weeks back if it were not for a Charles Matthews runner at the buzzer.
If Michigan is able to navigate through the month unbeaten until February 24th when Tom Izzo and the Spartans travel down to AA and the Spartans are able to do the same, this game will be for first place in the Big Ten. I see Michigan winning this game behind a very loud home atmosphere and the same result when Michigan travels up to East Lansing on March 9th for the last game of the regular season. In my opinion I think both teams will split their regular season match ups winning both at home, which makes every other game for Michigan crucial if they wish to take the regular season Big Ten title from Sparty.
In between Michigan and Michigan State's date at the Breslin Center, Michigan will face Nebraska at Crisler, the only time Michigan and the Cornhuskers will square up. The Wolverines got absolutely popped last season in Lincoln and this could be another revenge moment for Beilien. Another huge road test will be facing Maryland again on March 3rd and as said before could be huge to Michigan's regular season title hopes.
As the match ups with Sparty looms in the coming weeks I will dig deeper into the best player match up college basketball will see this year, Michigan point guard Zavier Simpson vs MSU point guard Cassius Winston.
If Michigan is able to go 9-1 in the last ten games and 29-2 overall, no doubt the Wolverines will see a #1 next to their name on selection Sunday.