INDIANOPOLIS – The Michigan Women’s Basketball Team No. 10 has lost four of its last six games.
Wolverine is time to start worrying.
Worried about their chances of returning to Sweet 16. Worried about their shattered defense, once the backbone of the team. Worried about their struggle to find an offensive sequence.
Entering the Big Ten tournament, it seemed that Michigan would crave revenge. The abandonment of the last three games of the regular season – and the loss of hope for the first-ever regular season of the Big Ten Title – should be the perfect fuel for the tournament.
Instead, the Wolverines added Nebraska to their growing list of losses.
In an inconsistent game, minor problems that plague Michigan ended in a terrible loss that ended the team’s short time in Indianapolis. With the same struggle that accompanies Michigan in every game, it’s clear that Wolverine’s problems go deeper than just individual matches.
After Michigan’s victory over Indiana on January 31, Wolverines were on top of the world. They ranked drivers in the top ten and ranked sixth in the country (the best ranking in the history of the program); The season looked everything Michigan had hoped it would be. It seemed that achieving the goal of a long career older than winning the top ten title was unaffordable.
Then everything moved. Two staggering upsets in early February by Michigan and Northwestern – two unranked teams – have called into question hopes for the Michigan Championship. And after a short run in the buyout Wolverines defended themselves, falling to Iowa in the last bout for the Big Ten title last Sunday.
Against Nebraska on Friday, the result was no different.
By allowing the Cornhuskers to score 20 or more points in three quarters, Michigan’s defense, which the team had been proud of all season, broke down. Wolverine’s crime could not be carried out further. Their foul problems allowed Nebraska to make 14 free throws in the second half.
“I think our most important thing is our defense,” said senior striker Naz Hillman. “I think that’s one thing that really fueled us at the start of the season, playing with teams with strong disruptions.”
So the natural question is: what happened?
Perhaps they reached the peak at the wrong time. Perhaps they are relying too much on Hillmon. Perhaps their end-of-season schedule was too difficult. Perhaps they needed senior winger Leigh Brown, who missed time due to a shin injury to return much earlier.
There are a million answers and excuses to this question. Most of the legitimate concerns Wolverines need to address are in the upcoming break between the current and opening game of the NCAA tournament. After touting their ability to focus on one game and wanting to be the most hard-working team in America, Michigan needs to hone its team’s philosophy now like never before.
As the fate of their NCAA tournament hangs in the balance, just as the Big Ten title was once possible, it’s time for the Wolverines to worry about the challenges that plagued them later.
“I think these last couple of games have shown attention to detail that we need to have,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arica said. “What we’ve certainly been working on, but if it’s not all together, I think it’s very important.”
Only proactive solutions based on recurring issues will save the Michigan season from the clutches of defeat. It is no longer enough to move forward in the hope that the problems will be solved by themselves. Or make sure everything is in order as soon as Brown is back in full force. Or hope the defense finally clicks. Or that the schedule will be easier.
Instead, it’s time to worry.