The failure of Michigan Basketball to qualify for the NCAA tournament after six consecutive appearances since 2015 is disgraceful. Despite a roster boasting two first-round NBA talents, and Hunter Dickinson, who is arguably a top-5 big man in the nation, the team was left out of the 68-team field. They had a 17-15 record, with no significant wins against ranked opponents. Many argue their roster alone should earn them a birth, but their resume pulled them farther under water as if it was a cement block tied to their feet.
Michigan’s absence from the NCAA tournament is unacceptable for a team that boasts such a talented roster. Kobe Bufkin, Michigan’s sophomore shooting guard, is projected to be a lottery pick in the next NBA Draft. Freshman teammate, Jett Howard, may be close behind as some experts are projecting the shooting guard to go in the top 20. Most notably, Michigan’s force in the middle of the paint, Hunter Dickinson, failed to provide enough leadership to push the Wolverines further in March.
“We weren’t able to reach one of our goals and play in the NCAA Tournament,” Dickinson said in a press release. “However, we have another chance to get out there. So many different things have happened to us this year, but we never put our heads down. The guys in that locker room are special and they know how much this means. Not only to ourselves but to our fans as well.
“We have a chance to play for something and we will go after it.”
Coach Juwan Howard’s team had a chance to keep their NCAA Tournament streak alive during a late-season surge. However, their chances fizzled in back-to-back overtime losses against Illinois and Indiana. They failed to secure any signature wins against ranked opponents and suffered a horrible home loss to Central Michigan, which cost them the chance of making it to the NCAA tournament.
The Wolverines accepted an invitation to participate in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) as a No. 3 seed in one of the four regions. They will face Toledo, the Mid-American Conference regular-season champion, in the opening-round game. The NIT is a 32-team, single-elimination event that includes bubble teams that didn’t make the NCAA Tournament and regular-season champions that didn’t win their conference tournament. The seeded teams in Michigan’s region are No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 Vanderbilt, and No. 4 UAB.
“Being able to coach this team again means a great deal,” Howard said. “We get a chance to play for a championship. That means something. These guys have put their hearts and souls into this year despite all the adversity. This team has grown throughout the year. We are looking forward to the opportunity to suit up and compete again.”
The history of Michigan Basketball in the NIT dates back to its inception in 1938, with the Wolverines winning the tournament three times in 1984, 1997, and 2004. The first three rounds of the NIT will be played on campus sites, with the higher-seeded teams hosting the games.
Michigan’s failure to make it to the NCAA tournament after six consecutive appearances is a significant setback for the program. However, the team has a chance to redeem themselves in the NIT, and add another championship to their trophy cabinet. Coach Howard believes in his team and is optimistic about their chances. Michigan has a talented roster, and it is unacceptable for them to miss out on the NCAA tournament. The team will need to regroup and come back stronger next season to ensure they are back in the Big Dance.
Michigan Basketball will host Toledo, in an opening-round game at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Crisler Center. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
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Featured Image Syndication: Detroit Free Press