Michigan probably couldn’t have drawn up a better start to the 2019-20 season. The Wolverines won eight of their first nine games on the season, including upset wins against North Carolina and Gonzaga.
The start of the season led to excitement, a booming Ann Arbor with increased expectations. The success of John Belein — at least momentarily — was forgotten. There was a new sheriff in town. His name? Howard.
But then January happened. Michigan has won just two games since the start of the new year, and while it may seem hard to imagine that the team that toppled the Tar Heels and Bulldogs could miss out on the NCAA Tournament, but as MLive’s Andrew Kahn reported, it’s possible.
Kahn cited CBS’ recent bracket preview, which did not include the Wolverines. The article quotes the preview’s author, Jerry Palm, who suggested the Wolverines’ brutal schedule and the nagging injuries Isaiah Livers has dealt with as reasons the team could miss out.
Palm said there is no formal protocol for the NCAA Tournament selection committee regarding injuries, suspensions, etc. (and those are all viewed the same). He said, firstly, a team’s résumé must be good enough to earn a place in the 68-team field. If it is, a team that was without a player for a certain stretch could have its seed adjusted one line.
Regardless of how grim things look now, the truth is that for Michigan to make the tournament, it’s going to need to start winning. The Wolverines have four ranked games remaining on their schedule — No. 25 Rutgers, No. 14 Michigan State, Rutgers again and then No. 15 Maryland.
Michigan won its Tuesday night game against Nebraska without starting point guard Zavier Simpson, but surely Wolverines fans would like to see their star player back on the court soon.
When he’ll be back, however, isn’t clear.
When Juwan Howard announced Simpson’s suspension, he initially said it would be for the Nebraska game, but as 247Sports reported, the door isn’t necessarily shut on the suspension continuing a little longer.
“We have to further look at this thing deeper and deeper and see what are we going to do moving forward,” Howard said.
When asked directly if there’s a chance Simpson’s suspension could last more than one game, Howard added: “I’m not sure. I’m not sure.”
The Cornhuskers entered their matchup with Michigan with just two wins on the year. The Wolverines next opponent, Rutgers, is 15-5. While the loss of Simpson might not have been as large a factor against Nebraska, it would likely factor more against the Scarlet Knights.
Tom Brady — arguably the best professional quarterback to throw the ol’ pigskin — is one of Michigan’s most well known NFL players. But not every Wolverine has found as much success.
Take Chad Henne for example. The once five-star recruit came to Michigan as highly touted as any quarterback the program had seen. In four years with the Wolverines, he set records and — despite a lack of wins in bowl games and in “The Game” — is one of the best to have been under center in the maize and blue.
But Henne’s NFL career left much to be desired. A second-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins in the 2008 NFL draft, Henne never caught on as a starter but has played the role of journeyman backup.
Now, Henne will have a chance to get a Super Bowl ring as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, who play the San Francisco 49ers Sunday. A recent Detroit Free Press article profiled Henne, who said the trip to the big dance is “a long time coming.”
Henne’s success wasn’t achieved by all Wolverines who graduated to the professional ranks. In fact, six Wolverines have made their way on to teams in the new XFL league, which begins play next month.
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