Michigan Basketball Takes on Ohio State, So Does Hockey

Michigan basketball will take on Ohio State Saturday , while the Wolverines hockey team battles the Buckeyes Friday and Saturday.

You won’t find a lot of sympathy here for the Big Ten hockey conference. College hockey is a sport whose rivalries were defined in ways different from football and basketball.

Putting together a “super conference” featuring Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan hockey and Michigan State looks like gold on paper. In practice it is less exciting. It is almost guaranteed that at least one of those teams will be left out of the NCAA tournament. Programs that have combined for over 5,000 victories and 23 national titles don’t need to subject themselves to that.

From a scheduling point of view it does create some interesting possibilities though. Wisconsin-Minnesota played each other two weeks ago in basketball and hockey. All three games were closely contested affairs. Minnesota nipped UW in OT on Friday night 4-3 in Madison.

Then on Saturday Bucky took an OT win , 78-76, at Williams Arena in Minneapolis and split the hockey series with a 5-3 win at the Kohl Center later that night. In 24 hours three games were held in great atmospheres with attendance of over 42,000 people.

Think of hockey series between UM and MSU, one of those the annual game at Joe Louis, with both hockey programs playing well plus a Saturday matinee at the Breslin Center or Crisler. It would be quite the weekend. All three of those games would draw well on their own though making it more spectacle than sizzle.

It is scheduling like this weekend between Ohio State and Michigan which arguably is more important. The Wolverines and Buckeyes have the best football rivalry in college football. They don’t have a great rivalry elsewhere though.

Ohio State is good in basketball most of the time. Michigan basketball runs in spurts where its hoops team tends to fall through the cracks mixed with spurts of national prominence. On the chance that both are great in a given year it doesn’t seem to last long enough to transition from kindling to a perpetual fire.

This year Ohio State is poised to be relegated to the NIT for the second straight season. Michigan is struggling to get back to the Elite Eight form of 2014. The game is meaningful, and one Michigan basketball should win, but it may not be enough on its own to gin up froth in Ann Arbor.

UM has won nearly two-thirds of its games in the 30 years Red Berenson has coached Wolverine hockey. Among Hall of Fame college coaches, only Ron Mason did better for a comparable decades-long stretch. Ohio State hasn’t been at that level as a hockey program.

Michigan hockey has seen its season unravel since mid-November and its are just 1-6-1 in B1G play. It is Ohio State that is playing for its NCAA Tournament life right now. Once again, probably not enough to gin up froth in Ann Arbor on its own.

Maybe though, all of it together will add up to something potent and new. It is possible for this weekend to be more than the sum of its parts.

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