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College Basketball

Michigan was in great shape for a No. 1 seed, until ...

Photo: Zeus/Cal Sport Media

After cleanly catching a half-court inbounds pass, Ben made a fading, contested 40-footer at the buzzer.

When Tim Hardaway Jr. rained in a 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left in Madison, the shot looked like it meant a lot more than a stirring road win for Michigan. With the Wolverines looking at a very favorable schedule (by Big Ten standards) down the stretch, a win at Wisconsin would have placed them in very strong position to win the Big Ten regular-season crown, and the attendant trappings that would come with it: a 1-seed in the NCAAs and a path through the Indianapolis regional (denying Indiana that advantage).

Then, in the blink of an eye, or as long as it took for a 40-foot bomb to rake through the net, those hopes, for now, were busted. No, make that flat #Brusted.

There were a lot of discussion points down the stretch of both regulation and overtime, with Bo Ryan curiously choosing not to use several fouls to give in either spot to disrupt Michigan's final possessions (in a postgame interview, he said he wanted the Badgers to foul if a Michigan player "got an advantage off the bounce"). But by far most of the talk after the game centered on whether Michigan should have fouled Wisconsin (with fouls to give) on the final possession, before Ben Brust was able to launch his game-tying effort. (After the game, John Beilein told the media the plan was to foul.)

There are very few situations where not fouling up by three points may be preferred, but with so little time left, this is one of the instances where it's definitely defensible. Unless your team is well-versed in giving fouls on the inbounds (without drawing an intentional foul call) or you can foul a player immediately on the catch when he's facing away from the basket, negating any chance he gets a shot up while being fouled and earns three free throws, it makes sense just to defend the play.

In this particular case, Brust caught a half-court length pass as he was turning to head toward Wisconsin's basket. If you could have given the foul immediately, it was there, but once Brust turned and took a dribble, the risk (in my opinion) becomes too great. Michigan was in terrific defensive position, and Brust simply made a fading, contested 40-footer at the buzzer. Tip your cap. Great shot.

The bigger question that *should* have been asked postgame on Twitter was "Why didn't Michigan guard the inbounder?" With that little time left, giving Wisconsin a free look at a long inbounds pass seems very questionable. The only way Wisconsin could get a reasonable look at the rim was if the Badgers advanced the ball significantly without the clock running. They executed it really well, with Mike Bruesewitz finding Brust on the move, and the rest is now history, but it didn't have to be that way.

So now, instead of Michigan finding itself in really good position vis a vis the league, it could be the Wolverines' in-state rival, Michigan State, which sits sneakily atop the conference at the end of the weekend. If the Spartans beat Purdue on Saturday night and Indiana can't handle Ohio State on Sunday, Izzo's crew will stand alone atop the conference.

Of course, given the Big Ten this season, Michigan State and Indiana losing to cause a five-way tie at 8-3 also is strongly in play. Think that's unlikely? So is a 40-footer at the buzzer.

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