Trey Burke, Sophomore Point Guard for the Michigan Wolverines, Drives to the Basket
In the world of what have you done for me lately—Michigan isn't looking too pretty right now. Going from being No. 1 in the country just three short weeks ago, to losing three out of the last five games.
Michigan was the last unbeaten team in the country, and has posted some great quality wins along the way thus far.
So how does one of the best teams in the nation get completely wiped off the court by their hated in-state rival?
It's quite simply actually.
The Breslin Center at Michigan State is notoriously known as one of the toughest venues to come into. Add the emotional fuel of the dreaded Wolverines coming to town and you've got a decibel level that only earthquakes can relate to.
Instead of what nearly everyone expected to happen—a hard-fought Big Ten classic, they got an embarrassment in the most hyped game of this storied rivalry's history.
Michigan St. completely out-coached, out-hustled, out-classed and out-worked Michigan from the tip-off until the final buzzer—winning 75-52.
Michigan came into Lansing, Mich. with a chance to put itself on top of the Big Ten. Instead, they got embarrassed on prime-time television and only the likes of the Duke Blue Devils know what that feels like this season.
If there are any positives that Michigan can take from this brutal stretch—it is the experience that their young core of players is gaining.
They fought back at Ohio State and Indiana—and thanks to half-court heave at Wisconsin they now know what shock can feel like.
While much of the nation is selling their Michigan stock—I'm sticking with them for a number of reasons.
First, Trey Burke.
Arguably the front-runner for the National Player of the Year award and the nation's best floor general. There hasn't been a guard in the Big Ten who posted numbers like this since Magic Johnson, in 1979.
Burke is averaging 18.6 PPG with 6.9 APG, as a sophomore. He and the Michigan program both need time to develop; the early success has made people forget how young this team really is.
Second, their schedule for the rest of the season.
The tough road games are done—with only trips to lowly Penn State and Purdue on the horizon. Michigan will get chances at redemption against Indiana and Michigan St. at the Crisler Center.
To win the Big Ten title Michigan will need to have Indiana and Michigan St. lose twice before the end of the regular season—while of course needing victories against both.
Michigan's biggest weakness has been against physical defensive squads and strong interior teams—see Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan State and Wisconsin (all of Michigan's four losses).
For Michigan to have any success they will need increased production from Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford, and Mitch McGary.
Morgan has been battling through a sprained ankle the past couple of weeks and the team has definitely missed one of their oldest players. He has seen his PPG decrease in each of his three seasons.
McGary has been the one stealing the minutes from Morgan. The hyped freshman has been improving more and more as the season progresses. McGary was once the No. 2 ranked recruit in the nation in last year's class. He is averaging 6.0 PPG and 5.9 RPG in just 18.2 MPG.
Horford is coming back from missing a lot of time last season with a knee injury. The sophomore has been used sparingly this season and missed a lot of key layups in the Wisconsin game—in the next two games he didn't attempt a field goal in 22 minutes against Penn St. and Michigan St.
The Wolverines will rely heavily on their guards to take them to the promised land. There might not be a better backcourt group than Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas.
This is one of the younger teams in the country as many forget that most of the impact players are freshman and sophomores. This group will have to develop some reliable depth if they want to go deep into March.
Glenn Robinson III was one of the bright spots for this team in the first half of the season—perhaps he was looking forward to his NBA Draft projections, as he has disappeared when his team needed him most.
Michigan has paid their dues this season, they have felt highs and terrible lows. Sometimes defeat can be the best lesson for success—especially for young and hungry teams like this one.
Follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenjaminRaven42