ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- In the moments after Zack Novak and Stuart Douglass lost their final home game at Michigan, they walked off the court into the locker room and knew they had to make an immediate adjustment.
A 67-51 loss to Purdue on Saturday had to change Michigan’s goals. No longer did they have at least some control of trying to win a Big Ten championship. With a loss to the Boilermakers combined with Michigan State’s 62-34 blowout of Nebraska late Saturday night, Michigan saw its opportunity for a Big Ten title essentially slip away.
Even more than losing on senior night, that is what stung.
“Completely,” Douglass said. “One of the most painful things, it was painful watching that Minnesota-Michigan State game, and words can’t describe how painful it is to lose a game like this with so much at stake.
“A Big Ten championship would be nice but if we trade in that for winning a game, making the Elite Eight or something like that, making a run, I’d do that any day of the week.”
Technically, Michigan could still win a share of the Big Ten regular season title, but the Wolverines would need a lot of help. First, Michigan (11-5 Big Ten) would have to win both of its games in the season’s final week -- at Illinois and at Penn State. Then, Michigan State (13-3) would need to lose both of its remaining games -- at Indiana and home against Ohio State. Finally, it would need the Buckeyes (11-4) to lose to either Wisconsin on Sunday or at Northwestern on Wednesday.
It isn’t impossible, but it is unlikely. Even then, the best Michigan can do is a tie for the Big Ten championship.
“We probably let an opportunity slip away,” Novak said. “We really made our chances a lot steeper, but we have so many goals left in front of us that to let this keep us down and snowball would be a mistake.”
The good news for Michigan is that one more win will secure a bye in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. Michigan is up a game-and-a-half on Wisconsin -- pending Sunday’s game against Ohio State -- and two games on Purdue.
So making the readjustment immediately wasn’t easy -- but for the rest of Michigan’s season the Wolverines have.
“As far as our training goes, yeah, we’re going to prepare for the next two opponents, get our seeding for the Big Ten tournament, as high as it can get,” Novak said. “We still have a shot to win it so it’s definitely not time to say let’s go into definite tourney mode.
“But we realize if we can use this loss to propel us to a run in March, I’ll take that."