The Michigan mens' basketball team blew a 17-point lead to Northwestern on Sunday in a game the Wolverines really needed at home. For a team who needs big wins to help their NCAA Tournament resume, it wasn't a good thing.
But now the Wolverines (8-7, 2-2 Big Ten) must move on, as they have a critical stretch coming up in their schedule. It starts Thursday night as Michigan hosts Indiana in a rematch of a game the Hoosiers won 71-65 on Jan. 31 in Bloomington.
Following Indiana, Michigan will face No. 15 Connecticut Saturday, No. 16 Wisconsin Jan. 20, No. 6 Purdue Jan. 23, and No. 8 Michigan State.
This team still has some problems that need to be addressed and questions have been raised about the leadership on this team, as head coach John Beilein told The Detroit News that there has to be more leadership on this squad.
"There's some chemistry we've got to continue to develop on this team," Beilein said. "It's not a negative chemistry. There's got to be some positive stuff coming from the team."
The Detroit News also reported that guard Manny Harris, who leads the Big Ten in scoring averaging 19.7 points per game, and Zack Novak have tried, but there are still a lack of on-court leaders on the team.
They better find one soon if they want to make the NCAA Tournament in March. The game before the Northwestern game, Michigan had to come back from a 31-16 halftime deficit to beat Penn State 64-55 on Jan. 7. There had to be some on-court leadership to pull off a comeback like that.
Along with leadership, finding that third option on offense still seems to be a problem for Michigan. The only two scorers on the team seem to Harris and senior forward DeShawn Sims, who is averaging 17.3 points per game, but other then that, Michigan is lacking.
It looked like for a while that Lavall Lucas-Perry could be that option, as he helped spark that comeback over Penn State with four three-point field goals and finished with 25 points for the night. But against Northwestern, he didn't score a single point and shot 0-for-2 from the field. Lucas-Perry is averaging just 6.3 points per game.
The other starters, Novak and Stu Douglass, also need to step up. Novak was expected to have a big season and he's only averaging 7.5 points per game and is only shooting 28.4 percent from three-point land for the season. Douglass is only averaging 6.9 points per game and shooting 33.3 percent from the floor.
Those three players shooting must improve if Michigan wants to be a contender in the Big Ten and make the NCAA Tournament. Michigan has a chance to pick up some big wins in the coming weeks to help its case for the NCAA Tournament and the team needs to be prepared for that.
"We're not a premier team in the Big Ten, but we're trying to get to be at the top end of it somehow," Beilein said. "But you've got to win your homes to do that. Hopefully we'll be able to get this one back on the road somewhere else."
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