WASHINGTON - For the first time in three years, there was no drama.
Michigan watched the NCAA tournament selection show at the Verizon Center knowing it was in the field.
Once the announcement came that the Wolverines would be a No. 7 seed in the Midwest Region, facing No. 10 Oklahoma State (20-12) on Friday in Indianapolis, their mind-set was finally able to flip for the program’s 27th NCAA tournament appearance.
If U-M wins its first-round game, they will face No. 2 Louisville or No. 15 Jacksonville State on Sunday.
In the past two months, the NCAA tournament was their goal and winning six of eight games to close the regular season secured that.
In the past four days this week, the Big Ten tournament championship was the mission and, with Sunday’s 71-56 win over Wisconsin completed minutes before the 5:30 p.m. CBS show began, that run was finished.
The Wolverines (24-11) now have a new focus: making a Big Dance run, just like the last comfortable Selection Sunday, in 2014.
That year’s announcement came at a Big Ten championship site as well, at Chicago, and sparked an Elite Eight run, one Kentucky three-pointer short of the Final Four.
Though current seniors Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin played important roles on that team and Mark Donnal, Sean Lonergan and Andrew Dakich shared the ride from the bench, this had a different feeling.
With a middle-of-the pack seed, there will be no heavy expectations.
But after missing the postseason entirely in 2015 and entering through the backdoor -- er, First Four -- in 2016, watching the show comfortably was a welcomed reward for the Wolverines.
U-M has only been a No. 7 in 1996, a season that ended in a first-round upset loss to Texas.
Detroit Free Press