There are some teams that notoriously play down to the level of their competition. Michigan's taken it in the exact opposite direction this season. The Wolverines have played incredibly well when pitted against teams ranked in the top five -- splitting with Duke, beating UCLA and now taking No. 1 Connecticut to the brink of a major, major upset on Saturday in Storrs.
Depending on where you check your lines, Michigan was around a 17-point underdog heading into this one. But the Wolverines actually led by eight in the first half and still had a four-point cushion with 14 minutes left. UConn, thanks mainly to the efforts of the monstrous Hasheem Thabeet, whose father has to be a redwood tree or something, finally stole the lead and held on for a 69-61 win.
Still, the outcome has to do more for Michigan than the Huskies.
Playing in Storrs against a team that looked to have huge advantages all over the court, it was the absolute classic "Nothing to lose" scenario for John Beilein's bunch. Barring a 40-point loss, or an injury to Manny Harris or DeShawn Sims, Michigan could simply watch its RPI bump up and get some national TV exposure against a sensational team. And the seemingly overmatched Wolverines played like the looser, more focused bunch for much of the game. Michigan kept things at its tempo, let Stu Douglass heat up outside to the tune of 20 points and kept Connecticut from getting out in transition.
Eventually Thabeet's size and UConn's athleticism got the best of Michigan. You can chalk up the lackluster effort to an odd mid-February game in the midst of the Big East gauntlet -- and that's probably a decent argument -- but the Huskies looked somewhat flustered against Michigan's zone, and bogged down in the half-court.
Michigan, meanwhile, suddenly looks like the group that climbed into the top 25 a few weeks back. That's good news because the Wolverines' season may come down to how they fair on Tuesday against arch-rival Michigan State and next Saturday at Northwestern.
UConn is back in Big East action on Wednesday when Syracuse's comes a-callin'. The Huskies survived on Saturday, and that's all they needed to do in the race for a No. 1 seed.
It's Official, Michigan Should Only Play Top-Five Teams originally appeared on NCAA Basketball FanHouse on Sat, 07 Feb 2009 21:10:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.