Nik Stauskas and Michigan made a forgettable exit from last season's Big Ten tournament.

Then a freshman role player on a roster loaded with options, Stauskas missed seven of his eight shot attempts, including four 3-pointers. The fourth-seeded Wolverines as a whole weren't much better, going 23-for-57 from the field. The resulting 68-59 loss to fifth-seeded Wisconsin, sent Michigan back to Ann Arbor to await its Selection Sunday fate.

Everyone knows how that ended up -- a memorable trip to the national title game -- but U-M's 2013 NCAA tournament run doesn't erase the lessons of that loss to Wisconsin.

Michigan is heading back to the Big Ten tournament on Friday as the No. 1 seed. They'll face either eighth-seeded Illinois or ninth-seeded Indiana on Friday at Bankers Life Arena in Indianapolis (noon, TV: ESPN/ESPN2). The Fighting Illini and Hoosiers will square-off on Thursday at noon in the tournament's opening round.

"At this time of year, it really comes down to playing your best basketball -- peaking at the right time," Stauskas said Wednesday. "That’s what we did last year. I think we were very fortunate to start playing our best basketball in March."

The team did, at least.

Stauskas struggled. Other than a brilliant 6-for-6 performance from beyond the arc in a 22-point outing against Florida in the Elite Eight, Stauskas went 10-for-30 from the field in the NCAA tournament, including a 3-for-18 showing on 3-point attempts.

Now Stauskas is a sophomore. He's the Big Ten player of the year and clear-cut catalyst on a team heavily reliant upon his 17.4 point-per-game average.

Michigan is 19-2 when Stauskas scores 15 points or higher and 4-5 when he finishes with 14 or less.

"My shot was off (last postseason), I couldn’t get things to fall," Stauskas said. "This year, I think my confidence has been pretty high the whole time. My teammates and coaches have put a lot of trust in me and they keep giving me confidence even when I’m a little down on myself. Heading into the Big Ten Tournament and then the NCAA tournament, I’m feeling good about myself and I’m ready to play.”

Stauskas was 4-for-7 from the floor, including a pair of 3s, and scored 15 points to go with five rebounds in Michigan’s first-round Big Ten tournament win over Penn State last year.

Then things went awry.

On Wednesday, Stauskas said it was “maybe a combination of both” shaky confidence and fatigue that impacted him in the postseason.

"Obviously my role was a lot different last year," he added. "I think I can get into a rhythm by shooting a lot more. A lot of our offense ran through Trey (Burke) and Tim (Hardaway Jr.), so I was just taking any shot I could get open in the corner. There were some games I would only take five or six shots and it’s tough to get going like that.”