If you read Bill Simmons, then you have likely heard about his “Levels of Losing” theorem. One of the losses that he describes is termed “The Stomach Punch”, which is defined in part as “any roller-coaster game that ends with … an opponent making a pivotal (sometimes improbable) play. … Usually ends with fans filing out after the game in stunned disbelief.”
Michigan fans, consider your stomachs punched.
The Wolverines lost 53-52 to No. 12 Wisconsin on Wednesday night in a game that was more or less for their bubble lives. Michigan did not exactly have the most impressive non-conference resume, which is highlighted by a road win against Clemson and knocking off Harvard in Ann Arbor in Tommy Amaker’s homecoming.
And while a recent stretch in which the Wolverines won six of their last eight games had gotten them to 7-8 in the Big Ten and into the bubble conversation, John Beilein’s club needed a marquee win on which to hang their resume if they truly wanted to go dancing.
Wisconsin was that team.
And it looked like they were going to get it.
Michigan forced Wisconsin into a number of poor shots down the stretch, holding a 52-50 lead into the final possession of the game. Wisconsin had the ball with 21 seconds left, but since the Wolverines had four fouls to give, they were able to milk the clock, eventually forcing the Badgers to inbound the ball with 5.4 seconds left.
Michigan doubled Taylor, forced him to give the ball up to freshman Josh Gasser who attempted a contested three. And Gasser, well, he did this:
You cannot help but feel bad for Michigan.
A banked, buzzer-beating, game-winning three is always going to be a difficult way to lose a game.
Especially when your NCAA Tournament hopes are riding on the game.
Making matters worse, the Wolverines brought this upon themselves. They were the ones that milked the clock and forced Wisconsin into taking the final shot of the game. They were also the team that missed their last six free throws attempts, including a one-and-one with just 30 seconds left in the game.
And as a result, a lucky shot by a plucky freshman may have sent the Wolverines straight into the NIT.