As March Madness begins, no team in the Big Ten tournament has more to lose by losing than the Wolverines. They have been to highest heights as one of the nation's premier teams in NCAA basketball and then slid down to a lower perch in the Top 10.
They have the Big Ten Player of the Year in guard Trey Burke. They have the "suffix brothers" - Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III - to provide scoring punch and name recognition.
But there is one question about Michigan that has lingered throughout the regular season: Are they tough enough?
Are they tough enough to win on the road?
Michigan had a losing record (4-5) on the road in the Big Ten. They were also 4-5 at neutral sites against Top 25 teams. Their most painful loss was to the team they play at 2:30 p.m. EST today - the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Losing to Penn State in Happy Valley and the loss to Indiana took Michigan from at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title to the No 5 seed in the tournament. The Nittany Lions know the Wolverines (17-1 at home) are a less efficent and vulnerable team on the road.
Are they tough enough to rebound?
You cannot turn it into a funny joke. "How was your rebounding today, coach?" "It was offensive!"
The problem is Michigan does not rebound the basketball well. Against Indiana in the regular season finale, the Hoosiers had more defensive rebounds (28) than the Wolverines had offensive rebounds (10).
It is fair to say that Michigan lives and dies by the jump shot and depends on Trey Burke's ability to penetrate the lane and either score or disht he ball off to an open teammate. Shut down (or at least slow down) Burke and stay tight with the Wolverine's perimeter shooters and you can beat the maize and blue boys from Ann Arbor.
I expect the Wolverines to redeem themselves today. If they don't beat Penn State, Michigan doesn't deserve a No. 3 seed in the NCAA basketball tournament. Look for Trey Burke, as he has done throughout the season, to lead them to a first round victory.