Beilein would welcome chance to play in NIT

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Chicago — In recent seasons, Michigan's team has gathered on Selection Sunday to find out where they're seeded and where it will be going to play in the NCAA Tournament.

This Sunday will be a different.

After the Wolverines' 71-60 loss to top-seed Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals at the United Center on Friday afternoon, they'll gather Sunday to see if their season will even continue.

At 16-16, UM won't make the NCAA Tournament — and will be fortunate to be included in the NIT's 32-team field.

Coach John Beilein took his West Virginia team to the NIT title in 2007 and welcomes the chance to continue the season to provide some added experience for his young Michigan team.

"That would be good for us to do, just to see if we can experience winning," Beilein said. "The NIT is difficult to win. You're going to go on the road, there's going to be difficult teams you're going to play — teams like us."

With injuries to Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr., UM had to depend on several freshmen in the rotation and the team started to jell in the final couple of games, including sticking with the Badgers, tying it with six minutes left.

Although the Wolverines have had an extended season, beginning with their summer exhibition tour in Italy, they'd be excited to have additional practices and opportunities to set a foundation for next year.

"It would be a great experience. I have great memories of being in the NIT several times. (We had) two good runs and it would be great to do that with this team," Beilein said.

The NIT doesn't have a specific requirement that teams have a winning record, but excluding the nonconference win over Hillsdale, the Wolverines are only 15-16 against Division I teams. In their last 11 games, they're 3-8, including a five-game skid.

But the strength of schedule is among the top 10 in the country and beyond the statistics, there could a surprise if Michigan gets in the NIT field.

"I expect that the NCAA and NIT will be very fair and will pick the right 32 teams," Beilein said. "If people look beneath the record right now and understand what we went through, we're a very good team. I have great faith in them that they'd pick the right teams."

Beilein said Michigan submitted paperwork to host NIT home games at Crisler Center but will have to see if it's even picked.

"You don't know and it will be driven a lot by the committee and TV. Win or lose, it's all good," he said. "It's more important they make a fair decision and get the right team. It's a great opportunity for us to continue going forward."

Just outsized

Two keys in the loss were rebounding and second-chance points.

Wisconsin had a 12-4 advantage on the offensive glass and a 17-7 margin in second-chance points.

"I'm sure I'll look back at it and say somebody did not maintain a block-out or they weren't strong enough," Beilein said. "There were other times where they were just longer than us or taller than us."

Michigan cut the lead to 63-58 with 1 minute, 12 seconds remaining, but Nigel Hayes got a putback off a loose ball and extended the lead to seven.

"We just got outsized a little bit," center Ricky Doyle said. "I was worried about (Frank) Kaminsky getting the ball and making sure he had to take a tough shot."

Beilein speaks out

Beilein was assessed a technical — his first this season — late for arguing fouls.

Wisconsin was called for five fouls and Michigan for 13. The Wolverines didn't shoot their first free throw until just after Beilein's technical with 38.1 seconds remaining.

"It was just a general overall disagreement," Beilein said. "It's a physical game out there and we have to draw more fouls. There's going to be times in a game where I'm going to disagree with the officials and that's part of it."

Stronger and faster

While the summer workouts with Michigan strength and conditioning coach Jon Sanderson have become the accelerator for improvement, it could be critical for developing the freshman class again.

Doyle, Kam Chatman, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Aubrey Dawkins all likely will stay on campus for spring and summer sessions to begin strength training.

"We're going to get stronger and faster and work on our game and make some of those shots in the game we missed, that could have changed something," Doyle said.

rod.beard@detroitnews.com

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