When Phil Martelli first sat back to ruminate on Friday’s loss to Illinois, he grew conflicted.
Michigan faced the most unenviable of situations, fresh off a COVID-19 outbreak and missing its best player – Hunter Dickinson – and another frontcourt fixture in Brandon Johns. The Wolverines handled the cards they were dealt in stride, conducting what Martelli called two of their best practices, from a competition standpoint, in the days leading up to the game. That carried over into Friday, Michigan holding its own through 34 minutes before the Illini pulled away.
It felt, in many ways, like a moral victory. After a number of uninspiring performances, this was different. Something to build upon. But:
“One little caveat,” Martelli said Monday. “Whenever you’re in a situation in sports and the other coaching staff says to you that you played really hard, that’s coachspeak. What that really means is you weren’t good enough tonight.
“We weren’t good enough Friday. We weren’t good enough in basketball. I appreciate the sentiment but, at the end of the day, what do we have to improve upon in basketball? You’ve got a scholarship to play hard. You got selected to be on this team to play hard. That’s a non-negotiable. Now, let’s play better.”