The Wolverine

March 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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M ichigan basketball prog‑ nostications ranged from as high as third to as low as ninth in the Big Ten preseason standings. Entering a Feb. 13 home game against Purdue, the Wolver‑ ines stood 8‑4, tied for fourth with the Boilermakers and a game up on Michi‑ gan State, one of the favorites to win the conference. The record might have been what many predicted, though few saw blowout home losses to Indiana and Mich‑ igan State coming. Take senior shooting guard and preseason All‑American Caris LeVert out of the equation, though, and few would argue it's not a different story. LeVert went down at the end of the first Big Ten game, a 78‑68 road win versus Illinois. U‑M went 7‑4 in his absence … afloat, technically in the Big Ten race (three games behind Iowa), but still with no guarantee of even an NCAA Tournament berth. And what a difference a week made in program perception. The Wolverines were 7‑2 a the halfway point with key wins over now No. 6 Maryland at home and at Nebraska in a tough venue, but had fallen to No. 55 in the RPI and essentially out of mind. With fellow senior captain and point guard Spike Albrecht done for the year, some Michigan fans started to question whether LeVert was doing everything he could to return to the court for the stretch run. Head coach John Beilein wasn't among them, even after noting doctors had cleared LeVert and it was up to his standout to decide when to return. "No … no. Abso‑ lutely not," he said when asked if he was frustrated with LeVert. "If anything, I'm saying, 'Don't do it until you're ready.' This is his call. This isn't my call. … He just pushes himself a little more each day … "I try to guide him, but it's his INSIDE MICHIGAN   CHRIS BALAS There's No Questioning Caris LeVert LeVert missed 11 of Michigan's first 12 Big Ten games with his third leg injury in three years, b e f o r e r e t u r n i n g t o h e l p t h e Wolverines beat No. 18 Purdue Feb. 13. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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