Last night was a nice little surprise for anybody who has watched Michigan basketball in recent years. The team I saw on the floor last night was not the same team I've seen all year. You could tell they all knew how desperately they needed to beat Michigan State. The Wolverines have now won 4 out of 6 and have a real shot at making the NCAA Tournament if they can miraculously defeat Ohio State at Crisler on Saturday. I'm not counting this team out yet, I think I prematurely buried them. You know what convinces me: Dion Harris. If you take out that Illinois where he shot terribly, this guy seems to have finally gotten it. He understands he needs to will this team to wins and he's done playing conservatively. The lineup change playing Jerret Smith at point to start has worked wonders for this offense (again take out that Illinois game).
And you know what, I saw a different Tommy Amaker last night. In recent days there has been mounting pressure on the guy. He had a meeting with Bill Martin on Monday morning before his normal press conference, and I think he was given the ultimatum: Get to the NCAA Tournament or you're done. For the first time all season, Amaker wasn't as polite to the media, even challenging some of their questions. Martin has been doing numerous interviews the past week, and has had plenty of opportunities to give Amaker a vote of confidence and he hasn't done it. And then in his postgame presser, numerous reporters tried to goat him into admitting his job was on the line, but Amaker would only go as far as to say this win was "a significant win".
The man showed the fire everyone
has been waiting to see for 6 years.
In talking to the players, I think they know Tommy's job is on the line. They understand their performance down the stretch could dictate the future of the program. Petway (by the way that dunk in person was incredible) said on MOnday that "we know you all have been jumpin on coach and it's about time we got you all off". So what will it take to make the Tourny? A win over the Buckeyes on saturday is a must, followed by a win in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament (we're playing either Minnesota or Northwestern). If the Wolverines do that they will be squarely on the bubble...a win in the second round of the NCAA Tournament and they become a lock. Will they do this? No, I'm fairly certain Ohio State is going to win on Saturday in a close one. It's at home atleast, and Tommy Amaker teams have shown they are good home teams, so don't count them out.
Alright I'm about to leave for Tampa for Spring Training. I'll have some posts from down there, as well as an addition to this one since my good friend Erin Andrews was at last night's game.