NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Michigan coach John Beilein says there’s treasure in losses if players look for it beyond their disappointment.
The Wolverines have put that approach into practice. Instead of wallowing after getting thumped by rival Ohio State, they went back to work.
“Usually your mistakes are going to stand out a little bit more after a loss,” Beilein said Thursday. “So we’ve been able to take defeat and turn it into a great learning experience.”
Now Michigan (24-9) is hoping the reward following the 22-point loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament semifinals is a run in the NCAA tournament. The fourth-seeded Wolverines face No. 13 seed Ohio on Friday in the second round.
Ohio (27-7) is back in the NCAA tournament two years after upsetting third-seeded Georgetown 97-83 as a No. 14 seed. The Bobcats who were around for that game aren’t expecting to get any boost from it against Michigan, though.
“We know that’s in the past,” Ohio junior guard D.J. Cooper said. We just know that we’ve got to beat a better team tomorrow night, and we have to come out and play hard, and we know that Georgetown, that doesn’t even matter anymore.”
What matters to Bobcats coach John Groce is that his team has won eight of its last nine, including a one-point victory against favored Akron in the Mid-American Conference tournament championship.
“I think sometimes January and February become a little bit of a grind, and you’ve got to be able to grab your guys and get them focused on getting a little bit better every day,” he said. “Teams are either going to trend upward or downward, and I’m blessed to be around a group of guys and players that have trended upward here towards the end of the year.”
While Ohio was celebrating its MAC tournament title, Michigan was spending extra time in the film room and on the practice court. Beilein calls post-loss film study “instructional clips,” and senior guard Stu Douglass knows it’s best to keep a similarly positive attitude about it.
It’s paid off for the Wolverines, who haven’t lost two games in a row all season and have won games after losses by average 10.7 points.
“You’ve got to put pride aside and grow up a little bit, just take responsibility for your own actions and move on and ask yourself what are you going to do for this team instead of saying, `Woe is me. Why is coach picking on me?’ Douglass said.
Senior guard Zack Novak added, “There’s been a few games this year we played really bad, and the film sessions were a little bit more lively and spirited. … If we want to be the team that we can be, this is what you’ve got to do.”
Douglass, Novak, sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and freshman point guard Trey Burke have made Michigan a very dangerous team in the half-court and at the 3-point lien, where it averages 8.2 baskets per game.
The Bobcats hope to counter the guard-heavy Wolverines lineup with their more traditional size, which served them well in the MAC where undersized wings and post players aren’t unusual.
“It won’t be the first time we’ve seen that situation, but they do it at such a high level with those four guards, and then when (Evan) Smotrycz is in the game, it’s really five guys that shoot 3s,” Groce said. “We have our hands full.”
Beilein is on a mission to get Michigan back fully in the national spotlight. He’s taken the Wolverines to the Big Dance three out of four years, but they haven’t made it past their second game since 1994.
The coach likes where his program is headed thanks to support from school officials and the way players Douglass and Novak are focused on getting better every day.
“It’s a destination,” Beilein said. “There’s a momentum going on right now.”