So, yeah, this was going to be one of those nights. A night steeped in the deep-space void that is a late February road trip to face a middling opponent, directly after an emotion-packed win over a rival. A crisp effort would have been nice for Michigan. A dirty, painstaking escape was the more likely best-case scenario.
And out of nowhere, the Wolverines reset themselves for their first outright Big Ten title since 1986. Down 19 at one point at Purdue, Michigan brought matters to overtime and then John Beilein delivered a Dr. Frankenstein play call to deliver the ball to Glenn Robinson III, who delivered a buzzer-beating bank shot for a 77-76 win.
Nik Stauskas had missed a potential game-winner at the end of regulation and then two more shots at the rim late in overtime, so Beilein went away from his leading scorer out of a timeout with 2.9 seconds left – and away from anything resembling sane basketball strategy.
Michigan threw some misdirection at the Boilermakers, then heaved the ball over the top of the defense cross-court to Robinson, who powered through two defenders and sent a shot off the glass that fell through for a win. After the game, Robinson told reporters that Michigan practices the play often, which merely amplifies the craziness. Had Beilein's eyes bulged and hands clawed as he looked skyward and ghoulishly screamed IT'S ALIVE, everyone would have just gone about their handshakes, because of course.
Adding to the weirdness was Robinson doing this right in front of his father, Glenn, the former Purdue All-American, the Little Dog eviscerating the Big Dog's team on his pop's old stomping grounds. Michigan didn't even lead at any point in the game until it scored the first bucket in overtime.
With that Saturday win over Michigan State still fresh – not to mention the assurance of a tiebreaker in the Big Ten title race – it might have been destiny for Michigan to win only via to alternate-universe strategy. But apropos of destiny, that regular-season championship now seems eminently probable. Even with a loss Tuesday, the Wolverines had the less cluttered path in the final three games: Home dates with Minnesota and Indiana around a road trip to woebegone Illinois. The Spartans, even as they reportedly had Branden Dawson among a full complement of players at practice Wednesday, have Illinois and Iowa at home but end the season at Ohio State. To imagine Michigan State essentially making up two games on Michigan in that context is difficult. Madness, even. The Wolverines, after all, have the market cornered on that, too.