The Wolverine

March 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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82 THE WOLVERINE MARCH 2018 M ichigan's seniors want their fi- nal year to be remembered for more than just having a nice team that simply reached the NCAA Tournament. They want more. They want to be remembered as a class that led U-M deep into the tournament, with the ultimate goal, of course, being a championship. Michigan has three seniors — for- ward Duncan Robinson and guards Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Jaaron Simmons. Simmons came to Michigan as a graduate transfer with one very large goal: make the NCAA Tour- nament. He never reached the Big Dance while at Ohio or Houston, the two schools he attended before coming to Michigan. Knowing the chances of reaching the postseason were high under head coach John Beilein, he chose to play for the Wol- verines — even though it has meant relinquishing his role as the starting point guard and focal point of the of- fense, like he was at Ohio. Late in the season, both Beilein and his players have preached the importance of being a player-led team. Making those in-game adjust- ments that coaches obviously can't do themselves is part of that. "We have a lot of responsibility, Muhammad and I, and also [junior forward Moritz] Moe [Wagner] being the other captain," Robinson said. "Player-led teams are the ones that win late in the season. That falls on our shoulders." Robinson hopes that the upper- classmen leadership can power a path forward for the Wolverines, and that their play at the end of games lately — which has involved both Robinson and Abdur-Rahkman han- dling the ball — is a start. "We have been through it before, having stepped in to late-game situ- ations and made free throws. Having that experience really helps and gives us confidence moving forward," Robinson said. "If we can step up and do it, I think it encourages other guys." In order for Michigan to reach its goals in March, it needs to close out February the right way. For Robin- son, that started with taking care of business at home. The Wolverines quashed Iowa 74-59 Feb. 14 and soundly beat Ohio State 74-62 on Senior Day Feb. 18 to accomplish step one of finishing strong. The home send-off couldn't have gone much better for Michigan's seniors. "You play with a little bit more pas- sion, knowing it's your last game at Crisler," Abdur-Rahkman said. "You don't want to go out with a loss." Robinson and Simmons didn't light up the scoreboard against OSU, scoring four and two points, respec- tively, but played important roles defensively — namely Robinson on Ohio State redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop. Bates-Diop led the Buckeyes in scoring and rebounding entering the game, averaging nearly 20 points and nine rebounds per contest. Against Michigan, he scored 17 points and had seven rebounds — but did so on 5-of-17 shooting (29.4 percent) from the field and a 4-of-8 effort from the free throw line. Robinson and freshman forward Isaiah Livers were matched up with him for most of the game. That came back to being a player- led team for Robinson, who realized his shot wasn't falling but knew he needed to make an impact on the game. A captain has to find ways to make a difference, and that's what he did. "We have a couple really good shooters on our team, but no one   MICHIGAN BASKETBALL Seniors Take Charge Fifth-year senior forward Duncan Robinson scored only four points in U-M's 74-62 victory ver- sus Ohio State Feb. 18, but helped harass Buckeyes star forward Keita Bates-Diop into 5-of-17 shooting (29.4 percent) from the field. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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