ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Michigan basketball team returns to the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in seven years.
The Wolverines (24-11) are the No. 7 seed in the Midwest region and will open the tournament Friday in Indianapolis against No. 10 Oklahoma State.
Michigan defeated Wisconsin 71-56 in the Big Ten Tournament championship game Sunday at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Derrick Walton Jr. led Michigan with 22 points, and D.J. Wilson added 17 points.
As of Sunday afternoon — as Michigan was playing — ESPN projected Michigan as a 7 seed, while CBS Sports projected Michigan as an 8 seed.
Six weeks ago, it appeared as if Michigan balanced precariously on the tournament bubble after stumbling through January with a Big Ten record of 4-5.
A 66-57 win against Illinois turned the tide for Michigan, which won six of its final eight regular-season games, including wins against ranked opponents Wisconsin and Purdue.
Michigan coach John Beilein pointed to a 70-66 loss to Ohio State on Feb. 4 at the Crisler Center as a turning point for his team.
Another turning point? Clearly, a plane accident involving the Wolverines on Wednesday in Ypsilanti, Mich. Michigan’s charter flight aborted takeoff and skidded off the runway at Willow Run Airport, about 30 miles west of Detroit. Michigan’s departure to Washington was delayed by nearly a day, but Michigan didn’t make excuses.
Instead of folding, the Wolverines were revived, and won three games to earn a berth in Sunday’s Big Ten title game, which only strengthened its tournament resume.