Typically, most refer to these as "trap" games because they are unexpected challenges along the way. I do admit that it is virtually impossible to predict a true trap game (I mean, you shouldn't know when a trap is coming, right?), but I'm going to give it my best shot to select the teams and games that are most likely to fill the trap game role for Michigan basketball this year. Just to specify, this does not mean I am predicting any of these teams to beat the Wolverines. Michigan should and will most likely be favored against every one of these teams. What I'm simply trying to do is select a few games that could present the most unexpected challenge. Let's look at the top traps games for 2012-2013:
#3 - Penn State - Feb 17
Yes, I am going to be that guy and select Penn State as a potential trap game. And yes, I do know how bad Penn State was last year. The first thing I want to note is that I have predicted that Penn State will improve from their last season, even if it doesn't show in their overall record. They are a young and well coached team that did threaten Michigan in the final game of the regular season last year. This game is in Ann Arbor, which will help, but Michigan will be coming off its most brutal stretch of the season and I wouldn't be surprised one bit if Michigan comes out flat for this one. In the four games preceding this match-up with Penn State, Michigan has to go on the road to play Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan State and play Ohio State at home. Those are all four of the highest finishers in the Big Ten from last season (excluding Michigan) and all teams that are predicted to bring in very good squads for this season. That's the most important stretch of the year for Michigan and teams can often have a letdown following those types of challenges. Michigan should win this game, but if Penn State comes out firing and Michigan comes out flat, this could be a pretty unexpected challenge for the Wolverines.
#2 - Northwestern - Jan 30
I selected this game for many of sames the reasons I selected the Penn State game. This is the game that precedes the most difficult stretch on the schedule and follows a pretty challenging stretch as well. Along with this, it took Michigan overtime to beat Northwestern on two occasions last season. To say Michigan was close to blowing one of those games would be the understatement of the year. Northwestern presents a unique challenge because of their unusual style of play. Plus, Michigan will be ending a stretch that includes Ohio State, Minnesota, and Illinois on the road and Purdue at home. Michigan lost at OSU last year, lost to Purdue at home, and played Minnesota and Illinois close last year. That may not be as challenging as the stretch that follows the Northwestern game, but it's pretty challenging and when you put this Northwestern game right in between those two stretches, the possibility of a trap game pops up. There have been a lot of differing opinions on Northwestern, but I'm still not convinced they will be as good as many are predicting for this season, which makes me believe that Michigan will be heavily favored in this game and could cause the team to lose focus entering the match-up.
#1 - Purdue - Mar 6
And for the biggest trap game of the upcoming season, I have selected a game against Purdue. To start, I completely realize this could be a very controversial opinion. Purdue was not a bad team last year and isn't predicted to be one this year, which makes one question whether this should be considered a "trap" game. I debated it for awhile, but considering the timing of the game, I think Michigan will be favored enough over Purdue to warrant the distinction of a trap game. If my predictions are right, or most of the experts' predictions are right, Michigan should be in a fierce battle with MSU and Indiana for the Big Ten title. This is the second to last game of the regular season and most of the emphasis will probably be on Michigan to live up to expectations and go on the road to defeat Purdue, especially with Indiana coming to Ann Arbor for the next game. Purdue has been recruiting very well and I think they might finally have the base to make an impact without Hummel (NBA Draft) this year. When you add in the fact that this is going to be a tough game on the road in between home games against Michigan State and Indiana, this is definitely a trap game. I don't think Michigan will overlook the game like they might overlook the two games above, but Michigan could very easily lose this game. So you might not think this is a trap game in the true sense of the term, but there's no debating that a loss at this time of the year against Purdue could be extremely devastating and something that fans and the team will not expect. Michigan should have a great year, but doing well in these games will be key to have a solid Big Ten and overall record.
#2 - Northwestern - Jan 30
#1 - Purdue - Mar 6