NIT not a given for struggling UM

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — With four games left and a 13-13 record, the odds of Michigan continuing its four-year run in the NCAA Tournament appear to be slim. The most likely scenario for UM to get back to the NCAA Tournament is winning the Big Ten Tournament, where they'd likely be a ninth or 10th seed.

If they don't pull off that string of wins, the Wolverines (6-8 Big Ten) could set their sights on the NIT — but still have some work to do to become an attractive team for that field as well.

Their final four games — Sunday at home against Ohio State, at Maryland, at Northwestern and home against Rutgers — present a challenge to UM even finishing with a .500 record in the regular season.

The Big Ten Tournament in Chicago could offer other chances for Michigan to improve its record, but outside of the NCAA Tournament and NIT, UM coach John Beilein indicated that Michigan likely would turn down bids to the lower-tier College Basketball Insider (CBI) and College (CIT) tournaments.

"If we're worthy of an NIT Tournament, that's something we'll consider, as long as I'm the coach at Michigan — but that probably would be it," Beilein said Saturday. "There's a lot of opportunities to play. This team has played a lot of minutes; it's got to be the right opportunity for us to say let's practice three more days.

There is no set criteria for teams to be selected to the NIT, but a .500 record is a guideline — and there were no teams with losing records in the field last season. Given their remaining schedule — and current five-game losing streak — the Wolverines still would have some work to do to finish at 15-15 and win a couple games in the Big Ten Tournament.

Beilein won the NIT in his final year at West Virginia in 2007 and understands the benefit of a young team playing additional games and getting more time to jell. But with UM's summer exhibition tour in Italy and toll that the injuries to some of their key players has taken, no other postseason tournament is desirable for UM.

"We had that opportunity (with the CBI) a couple years ago (2010) and that's not in my thoughts right now. We've been to Europe, we've practiced like crazy. We have a lot of opportunities to grow," Beilein said. "There's a certain time that you'd say, OK, the NIT is an NCAA-sponsored tournament. We could go on a run here and maybe I would change my mind.

"At this point, I would say we're going to the NCAA or NIT or we'll say we gave it everything we had."

Michigan is playing with four freshmen in the rotation and two of its top scorers, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr., have been out for most of the second half of the season.

Ohio State at Michigan

Tipoff: 1 Sunday, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor

Records: Ohio State 19-7, 8-5 Big Ten; Michigan 13-13, 6-8

TV/radio: CBS/WWJ

Outlook: Michigan is looking to end a five-game losing streak, its longest in four years. ... The Buckeyes dominated the first meeting by 19 points and have one of the best rookies in the country in D'Angelo Russell (19.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists).