March Madness 2012: Michigan Basketball's Path To NCAA Tournament

For the third time in four years, Michigan is going to the NCAA tournament. Here's a look at how the Wolverines made it back to the Big Dance.

For the third time in four years and the second year in a row, Michigan is headed to the NCAA tournament. The Wolverines received a No. 4 seed in the 2012 NCAA tournament bracket and will take on Ohio on Friday in Nashville.

It's really amazing to think about just how far this program has come in only the last year. During the 2010-11 season, the Michigan basketball program got off to a 1-6 start in the Big Ten and was only two games over .500. It looked like Michigan was going to be sitting at home during the Big Dance for the second consecutive year, but everything changed after the Wolverines went to East Lansing and beat Michigan State. Including that game, Michigan won nine of its last 13 in the regular season and conference tournament. The run resulted in a No. 8 seed for Michigan in the Big Dance, and the Wolverines blew out Tennessee in the second round before barely losing to Duke in the third round.

Because of the strong finish, preseason expectations were high (by Michigan's standards) for the Wolverines in 2011-12. Although the loss of Darius Morris to the NBA did bring the level of optimism down a bit (this was before anybody thought Trey Burke would be one of the best freshmen in the Big Ten), a lot of positive energy was surrounding the program, especially with the recruiting class Michigan had put together for next season. Many pointed to 2012-13 as when Michigan could finally contend for a Big Ten title because of that recruiting class, but the Wolverines currently on the team didn't want to wait.

Michigan opened the season with a 10-2 non-conference record and began Big Ten play with an impressive 4-1 record. The Wolverines slipped up at Iowa but responded with a big one-point win at home over Michigan State. This began a run where Michigan alternated wins and losses until the second week of February. That is when the Wolverines went on a big run that saw them win six of their final seven regular-season games, giving them a 13-5 record in the Big Ten. The Wolverines' record was good enough for a share of the Big Ten regular-season title and their first since 1986.

After beating Minnesota and losing to Ohio State in the 2012 Big Ten tournament, Michigan has a 24-9 record and will be looking to make a run to at least the Sweet 16 in this year's Big Dance. Michigan has won its first game in each of its two previous tournament appearances under John Beilein, but it hasn't been able to get to the Sweet 16. This year, the Wolverines hope things go differently and they are able to make a run into at least the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

For more on Michigan, visit Maize n Brew. For more coverage of the Wolverines in the 2012 NCAA tournament, visit SB Nation Detroit's StoryStream. Click here for a link to our NCAA bracket 2012.

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