2011-12 Michigan Wolverines: The Final Stretch

When we last left the Michigan Wolverines, they had played four Big Ten games against Penn State, Minnesota, Indiana, and Wisconsin. 

Penn State's prolific G Talor Battle exhausted his eligibility dragging the Nittany Lions to the NCAA Tournament, and Ed Dechellis is no longer in State College. However, the Nittany Lions hired a better coach in Pat Chambers, plucking him away from Boston University. The new-look Lions are a complete toss-up; John Beilein has done well against Penn State in his career (5-3 against Penn State in the regular season) but Chambers is not Ed Dechellis.

The Wolverines will take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Crisler Arena before travelling to Bloomington; Michigan suffered a humiliating 19-point loss to an Indiana team that was dead last in the Big Ten on their last trip to Assembly Hall. Michigan then hits another bump in the road with a game against the Wisconsin Badgers in Crisler Arena, who they have lost approximately ten thousand consecutive games to.

After this comes the meat of Michigan's conference schedule. What will make or break their season, after the jump:

After playing Wisconsin in Ann Arbor, Michigan takes on the Northwestern Wildcats, also at home. Northwestern has never made an NCAA Tournament, but they have managed to make John Beilein's life quite hectic; the Wolverines are 4-4 in their last 8 matchups with the Wildcats. After facing Northwestern, Michigan takes on the Iowa Hawkeyes in Iowa City, where the Hawkeyes stunned a top-10 Purdue team, hammered Michigan State by 20, and nearly stunned #13 Wisconsin (the Badgers won in OT). However, Michigan has defeated Iowa 5 consecutive times.

After Iowa...is the big game. Michigan takes on Michigan State in Ann Arbor, and they look to continue their 2-game winning streak over the Spartans (the Wolverines swept the Spartans last season). A loss here could be devastating. After MSU, the Wolverines head off on a 3 game road trip. Their first stop is to Fayetteville, Arkansas for their final nonconference game against the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Razorbacks...are not exactly an easy team to read. They managed an impressive OT upset of Kentucky, and stunned #19 Vanderbilt on the road, but they dropped a game to LSU, which was easily the worst team in the SEC last season. Michigan cannot take this game for granted at all.

The Wolverines' road tilt continues with a game against Purdue in Mackey...which was the only ranked opponent that really blew them out last year. The Wolverines lost 80-57 to the veteran Boilermakers, who got 43 combined points from JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore to pummel the Wolverines into the court. But neither of those established players are back; both Johnson and Moore now wear the jerseys of the Boston Celtics (if there actually IS an NBA season). To end their three-game road trip, the Wolverines travel to Value City Arena in Columbus to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes...who have lost quite a bit of firepower from last year's team.

To be frank, if Michigan comes out of the road trip 2-1 with a win over either Ohio State or Purdue, it will be a significant boost to their season. But a 1-2 result or even a 0-3 road trip would hardly be stunning. However, Michigan does get another shot at both the Buckeyes and the Boilermakers in Crisler Arena.

The road-weary Wolverines return home to Ann Arbor...and immediately face the Indiana team that they faced in the first three games of Big Ten play. Afterwards, Michigan finishes their season series with the rival Michigan St. Spartans in the Breslin Center. Another long road trip follows that game, this time, out to Lincoln. The Nebraska Cornhuskers will face Michigan for the first time as conference opponents. It will be Michigan's only game against Nebraska.

After Nebraska, Michigan takes on Illinois and Ohio State in Ann Arbor and finishes out their season series against Northwestern in Evanston. To close out the regular season, Michigan will face Purdue in Ann Arbor on Senior Day, before hitting the road for their last two games against Illinois and Penn State.

2011-12 Michigan Men's Basketball Schedule
Overall
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Conf.
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Home
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Away
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Neutral
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Date Opponent / Event Location Time / Result

Wed., Jan. 11 vs. Northwestern * TV Ann Arbor, Mich. 6:30 p.m. ET
Sat., Jan. 14 at Iowa * TV Iowa City, Iowa 12:00 p.m. CT
Tue., Jan. 17 vs. Michigan State * TV Ann Arbor, Mich. 7:00 p.m. ET
Sat., Jan. 21 at Arkansas TV Fayetteville, Ark. 1:00 p.m. CT
Tue., Jan. 24 at Purdue * TV West Lafayette, Ind. 7:00 p.m. ET
Sun., Jan. 29 at Ohio State * TV Columbus, Ohio 1:00 p.m. ET
Wed., Feb. 1 vs. Indiana * TV Ann Arbor, Mich. 6:30 p.m. ET
Sun., Feb. 5 at Michigan State * TV East Lansing, Mich. 1:00 p.m. ET
Wed., Feb. 8 at Nebraska * TV Lincoln, Neb. 7:30 p.m. CT
Sun., Feb. 12 vs. Illinois * TV Ann Arbor, Mich. 1:00 p.m. ET
Sat., Feb. 18 vs. Ohio State * TV Ann Arbor, Mich. 9:00 p.m. ET
Tue., Feb. 21 at Northwestern * TV Evanston, Ill. 7:00 p.m. CT
Sat., Feb. 25 vs. Purdue (2) * TV Ann Arbor, Mich. 6:00 p.m. ET
Sun., Feb. 26 vs. Purdue (2) * TV Ann Arbor, Mich. 1 p.m./4 p.m. ET
Thu., Mar. 1 at Illinois * TV Champaign, Ill. 6:00 p.m. CT
Sun., Mar. 4 at Penn State * TV State College, Pa. TBA
Big Ten Tournament
Thu., Mar. 8 First Round TV Indianapolis, Ind. TBA

Michigan's full schedule can be found here, at MGoBlue.

The Final Verdict

I think Michigan could turn out anywhere from 7 to 12 Big Ten wins this year. It's entirely possible that if that happens, their hopes of making the NCAA Tournament rest entirely on their performance in the Big Ten Tournament. A deep run could propel a 9 to 12 win squad in and boost their seed. A poor run could doom them, and make John Beilein's seat a little uncomfortable heading into the offseason.

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