Armed with a share of its first Big Ten regular-season title in 26 years, Michigan has its sights set on another championship.
The No. 10 Wolverines begin their quest for a Big Ten tournament title Friday night when they try for a third consecutive win over Minnesota in a quarterfinal matchup in Indianapolis.
Michigan (23-8) won six of its final seven games and got help from rival Ohio State on the last day of the regular season to tie the seventh-ranked Buckeyes and No. 8 Michigan State atop the league standings and claim its first conference championship since 1986. The second-seeded Wolverines already have wins over each of the other co-champs and plenty of confidence heading into this weekend's action.
"We've got to be greedy,'' senior swingman Zack Novak said. "We've still got goals ahead of us.''
The Wolverines won the inaugural Big Ten tournament in 1998, but that title was vacated because of NCAA sanctions. They are 8-13 in the event since then and have not been back to the championship game. However, this year's team might have the make up to get back there again.
"(Our players) play with poise, with confidence," coach John Beilein said. "They do the little things.
"We're going to have to have a mentality of sticking to things, and having a right mental approach because of everything that was at stake during that time that you're trying to be a champion.''
The Wolverines did those little things to rebound from a 75-61 home loss to Purdue on Feb. 25 by ending the regular season with wins at Illinois and Penn State. Guard Trey Burke had 19 points as Michigan shot a season road-best 59.5 percent - 10 of 18 from 3-point range - in a 71-65 victory over the Nittany Lions on Sunday.
Burke, who averaged 14.6 points and 4.6 assists, shared conference freshman of the year honors with Indiana's Cody Zeller. He scored 27 on 8-of-11 shooting in a 61-56 home win over Minnesota on New Year's Day in the teams' only meeting this season.
The Wolverines have held the Golden Gophers to an average of 61.7 points while winning six of seven in the series. Michigan won the teams' last Big Ten tournament meeting, 49-40 in 2007.
Though the only way 10th-seeded Minnesota (19-13) can earn a spot in the NCAA tournament field is to run the table in Indianapolis, the Gophers likely ended Northwestern's NCAA hopes with a 75-68 overtime victory Thursday. Freshman Andre Hollins scored a season-high 25 points as Minnesota outscored the Wildcats 14-7 in the extra period.
"We've been working hard,'' Hollins said of the Gophers, who dropped a season-high six straight before closing the regular season with an 81-69 win over Nebraska on Saturday.
Minnesota has never won the conference tournament, but reached the finals as the sixth seed in 2010.
"We just want to continue to play, play our hearts out," Hollins said. "It's just the steps we have to take in order to get to that point, and we just have to take care of Michigan next in order to keep moving on."
Hollins has averaged 18.3 points in the last three games but was held scoreless in 14 minutes against Michigan this season.
The Gophers could be without starting center Ralph Sampson III for a second straight game because of a knee injury.
- Big Ten