I don’t like to overreact to the outcome of a single game. I don’t like to make blanket statements about a team based on the way that one matchup plays out.
Over the course of a 35 game season, there are going to be nights were teams don’t show up. Maybe three starters are in the same class and were forced to be up late studying for a midterm. What if the star point guard just had the girl of his dreams break his heart? There are unfavorable matchups and difficult road environments and stomach bugs. These are 19 and 20 year olds were talking about. They’re going to have nights where they don’t show up and nights where they play out of their minds.
Consistency is not the norm in college basketball.
Which brings me to the 75-52 mollywhopping that No. 8 Michigan State laid on No. 4 Michigan.
After watching the Spartans go up by as much as 31 points on the Wolverines, I found myself wondering whether or not it’s time that we reevaluate the way we view the Wolverines.
And I know the caveats, so there’s no need to repeat them to me.
Michigan was playing on the road in front of a fired up Breslin Center on national television. They were coming off one of the most brutal stretches that any team is going to play this season: at Indiana, at home against Ohio State, at Wisconsin and at Michigan State, all within a 10 day span. Two of those games went to overtime.
They also just so happen to matchup with the Spartans about as poorly as it’s possible to matchup up with a team. Michigan State is big and physical and plays like it, but they also happen to be athletic and rangy in the spots where it hurts the Wolverines. Michigan is a jump-shooting team, finesse in every sense of the word, and on the nights when Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III aren’t hitting their shots, the Wolverines are in trouble. Hardaway and Robinson combined to go 2-15 on Tuesday, and the length of Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson played a huge role in that.
Should I mention that I’m not the only one thinking that Michigan State may actually be the best team in the Big Ten?
So coming off of a brutal portion of their schedule, a young Michigan team lost on the road in a game that they were physically overwhelmed, never found an offensive rhythm, and were playing the best team in the best league in the country.
But what gets me is that the beauty of the Big Ten this season is that seemingly every marquee matchup has lived up to the hype. Between the teams at the top of the conference, there haven’t been blowouts. Prior to Tuesday night, there were 10 games between the top five teams in the Big Ten. Only one — Sunday’s game between Indiana and Ohio State — finished with a double-digit margin. Only two others had a difference larger than five points, and one of those two was Indiana’s thrilling win over Michigan 10 days ago. Five were one possession games, two of which went to overtime:
- Indiana 81, Ohio State 68
- Wisconsin 58, Ohio State 49
- Indiana 81, Michigan 73
- Indiana 75, Michigan State 70
- Wisconsin 64, Indiana 59
- Ohio State 56, Michigan 53
- Michigan State 59, Ohio State 56
- Michigan State 49, Wisconsin 47
- Wisconsin 65, Michigan 62 OT
- Michigan 76, Ohio State 74 OT
And then we have tonight, where Michigan State made Michigan look like a JV team.
Do the Wolverines have the size inside to matchup with bigger, more physical teams? Can Robinson show up in big games and in difficult environments? Was this really just a blip on the radar, or a sign of bigger problems for the Wolverines?
I’m not ready to write this Michigan team off.
And you shouldn’t be, either. One ugly loss doesn’t mean they aren’t a title contender.
But it will be worthwhile to take a closer look at this team the next couple of times they take the court.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.