'Disappointed' Michigan passed over for NIT

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

After losing in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, Michigan still had faint hopes of being selected for the National Invitation Tournament.

Those hopes met with a resounding thud.

UM was not selected for the 32-team field of the NIT, ending its season at 16-16.

"We're obviously disappointed that we're not going to the postseason," coach John Beilein said Sunday night via teleconference. "At the same time, I have tremendous faith in the committees that choose the NCAA and choose the NIT."

The Wolverines lost to eventual conference champion Wisconsin, 71-60, on Friday in the Big Ten Tournament but Beilein held out hope that they would be picked for the NIT — a slim proposition, considering the selection committee generally doesn't invite teams with records of .500 or below.

UM proved not to be an exception during a tumultuous season that included injuries to two of their top scorers, preseason All-Big Ten guard Caris LeVert and starting point guard Derrick Walton Jr.

The Wolverines went 3-8 in their last 11 games, with three coming in overtime and only three more by more than 10 points. They started to jell toward the end of the season, with three freshmen in the starting lineup; extending the season would have provided a chance to show more of that cohesion.

"The real fact is that you don't go to tournaments when you come close so many times. You have to win more games and you have to do better than we did — and that's a fact," Beilein said. "I'm still proud of our team and how resilient they were all year long. We saw great growth in them. But really, there are spots of what could be a brilliant future for the program, for them individually and, of course, Michigan basketball overall."

Beilein spoken hopefully about an NIT spot following the loss to Wisconsin, looking to get more experience for the young roster, which featured five freshmen in the rotation, as well as two walk-ons at times this season. He indicated, though, that he didn't lobby with the NIT selection committee for a spot for UM.

Before coming to Michigan, Beilein coached West Virginia in the NIT in 2006-07, when leading the Mountaineers to the championship in his final season there. UM had been to the NCAA Tournament the last four years — with a trip to the title game in 2013 and to the Elite Eight last season.

Beilein said he sent text messages to all his players letting them know that the season was over and they'll plan out the coming weeks, with reduced practice time and specific focus areas for their offseason workouts.

Spike Albrecht, Beilein said, replied that he "wished next season started today."

But for Albrecht, the offseason likely will include surgery on his ailing hip — similar to Max Bielfeldt's — and some recovery and rehab time. He played through the injury for most of the season, but they'll see how the next few weeks go and decide on a plan moving forward.

"The next couple days will mean a lot. If the injury is similar to Max's, it is something that will take him the best part of the summer to recover from," Beilein said. "So the earlier the better. But we also don't want him to miss too many classes.

"He'll rehab really well — I'm confident of it. He's hungry to get back going, I'm sure."