Michigan pushed Purdue to the brink twice this season.
But, both times the Boilermakers prevailed and the Wolverines whiffed on an opportunity to secure a resume-boosting win and shake up the Big Ten race.
Now past the midway point with eight conference games remaining, Michigan’s prospects of winning its first Big Ten regular-season title since 2014 appear slim. Purdue, the reigning regular-season champ, is in first with a perfect 9-0 mark, while the Wolverines are looking up at four teams in the standings entering play Sunday.
Michigan (6-4) sits a half-game out of fourth place behind Nebraska (7-4), who owns the head-to-head tiebreaker for the conference tournament with a 20-point win in the lone meeting between the teams.
While Michigan’s remaining schedule eases up a bit — six opponents have a .500 record or worse in Big Ten play — it gives the Wolverines a reasonable shot to move up and lock down one of the four double-byes for the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden, where they’ll look to defend their title.
There’s also a couple of chances left for Michigan to strengthen its case for the NCAA Tournament and avoid a No. 7-10 seed — and subsequently a potential second-round matchup with a No. 1 or 2 seed — with quality wins against No. 13 Ohio State and Maryland, which both rank in the top 52 of the NCAA’s RPI rankings.
“We have a long way to go in this season with eight games left,” Michigan coach John Beilein said following last week’s 92-88 loss to third-ranked Purdue. “We have to — we’re going to have to win a lot more games and get better. And the only way we can do that if we continue to practice and continue to self-correct some of the habits that we have. And the coaches have to continue to look at the game and try to grow as well. And, of course, that’s me included.
“So, we continue to find ways to get better. But we played some really good teams, and (Purdue) twice, tough, and it means you can play with a lot of people.”
Here is a breakdown of Michigan’s resume based on the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee guidelines, which places a greater emphasis on where games are played over an opponent’s RPI ranking, entering Sunday’s slate of games:
■ Home against RPI 1-30, neutral against RPI 1-50, road against RPI 1-75
Wins: at Michigan State (28), at Texas (40)
Losses: vs./at Purdue (8), at North Carolina (11), at Ohio State (21), at Nebraska (65)
Remaining games: vs. Ohio State (21), at Maryland (52)
■ Home against 31-75, neutral against 51-100, road against 76-135
Wins: vs. Maryland (52), vs. UCLA (66)
Losses: vs. LSU (81)
Remaining games: at Northwestern (97), at Penn State (108)
■ Home against 76-160, neutral against 101-200, road against 136-240
Wins: vs. VCU (101), vs. Indiana (109), at Iowa (153), vs. Illinois (163)
Remaining games: vs. Northwestern (97), vs. Minnesota (99), at Wisconsin (136), vs. Iowa (153)
■ Home against 161-351, neutral against 201-351, road against 241-351
Record: 8-0 (doesn’t include win against Division II Chaminade)
Wins: vs. Rutgers (194), vs. Central Michigan (196), vs. Southern Mississippi (204), vs. North Florida (212), vs. Jacksonville (282), vs. Detroit Mercy (283), vs. UC-Riverside (320), vs. Alabama A&M (349)
Remaining games: None
Northwestern at Michigan
Tip-off: 7 p.m. Monday, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor
Records: No. 25 Michigan 17-6, 6-4 Big Ten; Northwestern 13-9, 4-5
Outlook: Michigan has won nine of the past 11 meetings, including six straight at home…Monday’s game will be ’90s night, with all graphics and production ’90s-themed…Four players are averaging double-digits in scoring for Northwestern, led by senior G Scottie Lindsey (14 points).