8 Reasons Michigan Is A Better Tournament Team This Year Than Last Year

March 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Comments Off

I think we can all agree last year's tournament showing was disappointing. In 2015, Michigan had to play in a Round of 4 game just to get in to the first round. When they did, John Beilein’s team blew a double digit lead against a Notre Dame team they should have beat. The season was fraught with question marks as 10 of Michigan's 11 losses were by double digits.

The ironic thing is, two games into the Big Ten Tournament, this year’s Michigan team had the same record as last year's team (and had just knocked off the #1 seed both times, as well). But if the Wolverines’ dominant play lately isn’t already a testament, this is not the same team as last year’s group, and they’re primed for a much deeper run in the NCAA Tourney. Here's why:

#1. The maturation of the Michigan big men

Last year, we screamed and buried our face in a pillow any time an opposing center got the ball down low. This year, even in some of our biggest losses, our bigs are not getting outscored and they’ve even learned they are allowed to block other players when they shoot. That is actually a huge plus in a Big vs Big scenario.

Sometimes, if you can at least score on a big, you can get him in foul trouble, which is sometimes just as good as blocking him. D.J. Wilson, in particular, can guard any position and contributes even when he is not scoring. Plus, it’s great to see Donnal on the bench. It was nauseating when he was our starting center, but he fills in just fine as a sub. It's safe to say our size is no longer our biggest liability on offense. As a matter of fact, it's one of our greatest assets.

#2. A deeper bench from which to draw

I don't know if you've noticed, but two starters from last year are now on the bench. It is a little sad, but it also means Beilein is recruiting better younger players and developing them. Donnal is a decent relief big and Duncan Robinson can completely change the pace and feel of the offense.

Meanwhile, the former Mr. Basketball of Ohio (Xavier Simpson) is coming along nicely. I am not saying he's the next Trey Burke, but he even in his limited playing time he is showing that he can do some things Walton can't do: like force his way into the lane. Look for little Simpson to get more playing time in the tournament and for him to do some special things.

#3. Zak Irvin is no longer our top scorer

I get it, everybody likes it when he buries a three in someone's face, but we're not at the neighborhood park trying to school Freddy from across the street. Michigan was great when Zak Irvin was our 7th or 8th best player back in the day, and now, with Walton being more aggressive and Wagner maturing as a player, we don't have to rely on him chucking up low percentage shots. Luckily he’s started to take better shots and his teammates have benefited from better looks.

#4. This team wins against higher quality opponents

As previously stated, 10 of our 11 losses last year were by double digits. This year, we only have 4 losses by double digits (the last coming on January 11th, the infamous “white collar” game). But this year’s team has won against six top-50 opponents, five of those coming since February.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament Final-Michigan vs Wisconsin Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

#5. Mo Wagner is the Truth

Yes! I am on the German Vulksbandwagon! There are times he loses vision and can't pass himself out of tight spaces, true. He also gets into foul trouble just about every game (but he seemed aware of that against Wisconsin and did a good job), but the fact is that at the end of the day he can create scoring opportunities in ways NO one on that team can. Big men are not fast enough and guards aren't big enough to guard him. If only he can learn there are two halves in a game...

#6. Derrick Walton, Jr. is even Truthier

Boy, did we ever need him to have a big senior season and boy did he deliver. It's not just the freak game at Nebraska with 18 points, 16 assists (ridiculous), and 5 steals. It’s not just the 29 points and 9 assists against Minnesota. He's been stepping it up all year in ways that haven’t made the box score, and he’s only got more comfortable with the more games he’s played.

I’ll want to see how he will fare against bigger, stronger guards, but it’s hard finding guys as big and strong as Walton. This is a HUGE advantage for Michigan. John Beilein simply cannot win without a good/great point guard. His offense knows just as much about post moves as Warren Beatty does about reading cards. We will need everyone to contribute, but Walton's play is the X-factor.

#7. This defense is what wins the day, though

I feel like 90% of any given tournament game is about match-ups. Last year, we had Donnal starting at the 5 spot, with Irvin at the 4 spot. That was a nightmare I hope I don't have to relive, since neither one of them could guard their opponents' position.

But this year, it's been Wagner and Wilson with Donnal coming off the bench. That has been a great duo in the Big Ten. Going into the Big Ten Tournament, three of their four wins against teams in the top of the RPI were because they held their offense under 60 points. Last year, that happened ONE time against Purdue and it was a pretty big fluke.

Last year, we gave up 80 points or more to opponents 7 times - all of them blowout losses. This year, we did it 5 times, 2 of those were overtime games, and the only one that was not a road game we won. We currently rank 38th in the country in points allowed.

#8. ..And they know how to follow through

Sure, the 2016 team upset the #1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament last year too, but the next day they got blown out by Purdue. This year, beating the #1 seeded Purdue was just the beginning. The day after, they soundly beat Minnesota and then dispatched Wisconsin in the championship, handling every run and challenge with resolve.

The miraculous thing is that Michigan lost in the regular season to ALL FOUR teams it beat in the Big Ten Tournament. That is more than momentum. That is inspiration. If a team is going to make a run in the NCAA Tournament, it doesn't need seeding, publicity or a plethora of NBA talent. It needs 8-10 guys who all know their role and are playing inspired basketball.


So, does this mean they are going to win it all? No, but it does put them in a great position to make a run. Being a 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament comes with challenges, but being an 8 seed in a conference tourney is pretty rough, too - and Michigan aced that. I don’t think think this team is ready to go home just yet.

What do you guys think?

Tuesday Morning Brews: Afterglow

March 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Comments Off

Michigan sports has a big weekend as Basketball and Women’s gymnastics take home B1G Titles

What a weekend, folks. Men’s basketball walked away from a plane accident and won a B1G Title. Women’s gymnastics likewise exited the weekend with B1G Championship hardware. Basketball is a seven seed in the NCAA Tournament and will play Oklahoma State on Friday. Also, for those that haven’t done so already, don’t forget to join our bracket challenge. Your picks must be in before noon on Thursday. The college sports landscape is pretty well saturated with basketball-related news right now, so this morning’s Brews will be a little abbreviated. We should start seeing news from football on Thursday, as spring ball is right around the corner.

Let’s hit the links:

Basketball capped a miraculous weekend with a B1G Tournament Championship on Sunday afternoon, topping Wisconsin by the score of 71-56. Derrick Walton, who had been robbed of a first team all-conference spot just days earlier, rightfully took home tournament MVP honors. Zak Irvin overcame his mid-season doldrums to put together a great close to the season and also earned all-tournament team honors. This is Michigan’s first B1G Tournament Championship since the 1997-1998 season. If you haven’t already, check out MnB’s analysis of the Mid-West regional and what it would take for Michigan to get to the elite eight.

It’s several days old at this point, but if you haven’t read this article from Brendan Quinn about the aftermath of the plane accident - you should. You should read THIS ONE from Monday morning, as well. In many ways, this was almost the weekend and championship that wasn’t. This team responded to adversity in a way that is very rare for a group of 18-22 year-olds. At the center of that was John Beilein who, somewhere between a plane crash and a B1G Title, became Michigan’s winningest coach. As our very own (and new addition to the staff) Ed Murray put it, it’s time to thank Coach Beilein.

Keeping with the big victories over the weekend theme, John Beilein has won the Coaches for Charity Challenge. This is the second year of the challenge, and Beilein’s second year winning the challenge. $100,000 will be donated to ChadTough Foundation Fund at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. That fund is used to advance research into childhood cancer, and specifically Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) from which the foundation’s namesake, Chad Carr, died a year-ago November.

Women’s gymnastics also won a B1G Championship over the weekend, topping Iowa and three other teams at the Big Five meet to secure their 3rd regular season title. Michigan will share the title with Nebraska. Michigan has won at least a share of the B1G regular season title three of the five years it has been in existence. Including B1G Tournament titles, this is Michigan’s 25th championship in Women’s gymnastics. The Wolverines will compete for a B1G Tournament championship next weekend at Rutgers.

Men’s lacrosse scored the first victory of the young program’s career this past weekend, topping #10 Penn 13-12. Despite being in existence since the 1940s, men’s and women’s lacrosse at Michigan was only elevated to NCAA team status in 2012. Prior to then, the teams existed as varsity club teams. Prior to becoming an NCAA team, the men’s team had won 11 of the past 12 club championships. Since being elevated, the team has struggled against top-flight competition - like Penn.

Michigan women’s basketball snubbed from NCAA Tournament, earn bid to WNIT

March 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Comments Off

This marks the fourth-straight season that the Wolverines have missed the NCAA Tournament.

Less than a month after being ranked in the Top 25 nationally, the Michigan women’s basketball team has been left out of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth-straight season.

The Wolverines will play in the WNIT. Michigan has played in the WNIT during the last three years and have reached the Final Four during each of the last two seasons.

Believe it or not, ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme had Michigan in the last four teams to make the tournament and as a No. 10 seed on Sunday night.

The committee included Big Ten Conference teams in Maryland (No. 3), Ohio State (No. 5), Michigan State (No. 9), and Purdue (No. 9) to the NCAA Tournament on Selection Monday.

Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico led the team to a 22-8 record (11-5 B1G), but lost to Michigan State by 10 in their opening game of the 2017 Big Ten Tournament. Arico was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year.

The Wolverines are led by junior guard Katelynn Flaherty, sophomore center Hallie Thome, and freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick. Flaherty averages 19.9 points per game, while Thome and Gondrezick have logged 15.2 and 15.1 points per game. Flaherty was named to the All-Big Ten Conference First Team.

The WNIT Championship will be played at 3:00 PM ET on April 1st. If Michigan gets hot, the Maize and Blue could win it all.

2018 LB Brian Asamoah will no longer visit Michigan this week

March 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Comments Off

Brian Asamoah will attempt to reschedule his Michigan visit for April.

Class of 2018 three-star linebacker Brian Asamoah will no longer visit Michigan on March 18th. Instead, he will reschedule his trip to Ann Arbor for April.

“I will not be visiting Michigan this week,” he said. “Due to coach (Jim) Harbaugh saying he will not be there to meet me, so I am scheduling a new date to visit when he is there.”

The 6-foot-0, 205-pound outside linebacker is ranked No. 611 in the 2018 class, according to the 247Sports Composite. He is the 44th-best at his position and is ranked No. 26 in the state of Ohio.

Asamoah, from St. Francis De Sales High School (OH), has offers to play for Cincinnati, Kentucky, Michigan, Penn State, Pittsburgh, UCLA, West Virginia, Boston College, Buffalo, Colorado State, Duke, Eastern Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa State, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Purdue, Rutgers, Toledo, and Wisconsin.

“I’m visiting Michigan to get a better feel of the program,” he said. “What makes them special is their leader, who is coach Jim Harbaugh. The impact he has brought to the program in a short period of time is unreal. You can only imagine what he is going to do over time.”

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has led the Wolverines to a 20-6 record across his first two seasons with the program. Michigan has been to back-to-back bowl games and Asamoah has taken notice.

“I feel good about Michigan,” the outside linebacker said. “I love the direction the programs heading towards under coach (Jim) Harbaugh.”

Check out Asamoah’s junior season highlights with St. Francis De Sales:

Those five days: From disaster to triumph for Michigan basketball

March 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Comments Off

Michigan inks its place in history with historic Big Ten Tournament

It started with a plane crash and ended with a championship.

When the final buzzer sounded, Michigan fans threw their hands into the air in victory. The feeling was both joy and relief. Players rushed the court. They jumped and hugged and put on their new shirts and hats exclaiming their new title: Big Ten Tournament Champions.

Coach John Beilein stood on the court surrounded by his players, a TV camera and microphone in his face. He smiled and put his arms around his star seniors, Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton, who were standing on either side of him. “A lot of people doubted these guys,” he said.

Then he was asked about the week that his team has had. “You’re gonna tell your grandkids about those five days.”

Those five days.

Big Ten Basketball Tournament - Championship Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Michigan basketball team was scheduled to fly to Washington D.C. on Wednesday afternoon, but as the plane accelerated down the runway the pilot was forced to abort takeoff. He slammed on the breaks. The plane skidded on the pavement and then the landing gear collapsed. It smashed into the ground and continued skidding forward through a fence and into a field. Following a quick evacuation of the plane, the damage was assessed. Only minor injuries. Derrick Walton needed stitches for a cut he suffered while leaving through the emergency exit. But the emotional toll would be the most concerning.

As ESPN commentator Dan Dakich said during a pregame interview on Thursday, this was not merely an incident. For all intents and purposes, this was a plane crash.

Back in Ann Arbor, Beilein gave his team the option: Forfeit the next day’s game or fly out early the next morning. The team held a players-only meeting. Despite reservations from some members of the team, the majority ruled. They would board a new jet early Thursday morning, head straight to the arena and play Illinois in their practice uniforms (their game jerseys were still in the belly of the plane, which was under FAA investigation).

Given the circumstances, the expectations were low for the Wolverines. Needless to say, those were shattered. The Maize and Blue came out hot and never cooled off. The lead was 11 at halftime and the final score gave Michigan a 20-point blowout. They played loose. They had fun. They didn’t think about airplanes or danger. It was all about the game they loved.

After the game, Walton told the media, “Once we got on the court, we just got back to doing what we do every day. We just wanted to give it all, have fun with it.”

Irvin echoed Walton’s words. “I think the hardest part for all of us was getting back on the plane. Once we landed, everybody was fine. We were excited to get back on the court, get everything back to normal.”

Back to normal, which, down the final stretch of the regular season, meant winning. They had won six-of-eight entering the tournament and showed no signs of slowing down, though some fans and analysts feared the traumatic events of Wednesday would soon catch up with the Wolverines.

Big Ten Basketball Tournament - Semifinals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

On Friday afternoon Michigan met top-ranked Purdue. The result was a four-point overtime win. The next day they faced a tough Minnesota squad that had recently beaten the Wolverines in overtime. Michigan fought hard and led for most of the game. At halftime it was 11 points. Early in the second half, Michigan extended its lead to 13. That was when things took a turn. The Gophers stormed back and eliminated the comfortable UM lead. The game was tied at 55-55. Beilein took a timeout, which turned out to be a very wise decision. A tired Michigan team finished the game strong, hitting the big shots when needed and escaping with a seven-point win.

Later, when asked about that pivotal timeout, Beilein said, “That timeout was nothing to do about basketball. For the first time all year, I saw us bickering at each other. Somebody didn’t play defense. Somebody backed out. Somebody didn’t run a cut right. That was what that timeout was about.”

It was a teaching moment. It was another opportunity for Beilein to coach young men, not just basketball players. It was a chance for the team to regroup, refresh its mindset and refocus. Call it Beilein being Beilein.

Big Ten Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Come Sunday, Michigan was looking at the chance to bring home the school’s first Big Ten Tournament Championship since 1998. The fan base was trembling with anxiety. What it would mean to close out this week with a victory. What kind of story would be told about the Plane Crash Boys, as they became known on Twitter. What a statement for a Michigan team that has been underestimated all season.

The Wolverines arrived on a mission. The game was close for most of the first half, but Michigan was able to jump out to a modest lead early in the second. But it never felt comfortable. Wisconsin battled, but Michigan held its ground. UM extended its lead to 15 in the final minute and then Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman stole the ball and dribbled out the longest 17 seconds of the season. It was all finally over.

By early Sunday evening, the Michigan basketball team had etched its name into the record books. Tournament champions. Four wins in four days. The lowest seed to ever win a Big Ten Tournament. And, more than all of that, a team that would let nothing stand in its way.

We learned this past week that there are more important things in life than basketball. But it seems for Michigan that basketball was exactly what the team needed.

Holy Brackets! Join the Maize n Brew Bracket Challenge

March 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Comments Off

How does a crisp high five and some bragging rights sound?

The NCAA Tournament field is set, and now the fun begins.

Whether you’re a paper brackets person or not, filling out the field of 68 and predicting how it goes is one of our favorite past times.

So here’s your second chance to join us in the fun. We’ve created a bracket challenge for the Maize n Brew family where you can join our staff in picking how the NCAA Tournament plays out. Join our bracket challenge here, and you could win the following:

  • Bragging rights on all Michigan fans for a year.
  • A possible guest column on the website.
  • Because why not join our challenge?

This is all for fun, so keep that in mind when making your picks. Again, you can join here and let’s have some extra fun this tournament season.

This. Is. March.

Michigan opens as 1.5-point favorite over Oklahoma State in First Round of NCAA Tournament

March 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Comments Off

No. 7 Michigan will face No. 10 Oklahoma State on Friday at 12:15 PM ET.

No. 7 Michigan has opened as a 1.5-point favorite against No. 10 Oklahoma State in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, according to VegasInsider. The two teams will battle it out in the Midwest Region.

The other three No. 7 vs. No. 10 games include No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 10 Marquette, No. 7 St. Mary’s vs. No. 10 VCU, and No. 7 Dayton vs. No. 10 Wichita State. Michigan is slated to be the closest of the four games, along with South Carolina, which opens as a 1.5-point favorite over Marquette.

The Wolverines won four games in four days on the road to claiming the 2017 Big Ten Tournament championship, while Oklahoma State has dropped its last three games, including the Big 12 Tournament opener to Iowa State.

Michigan and Oklahoma State will tip-off on Friday at 12:15 PM ET from Indianapolis, Indiana.

Taking a look at the Michigan’s chances in the Midwest Region

March 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Comments Off

The Wolverines could have an interesting journey ahead of them.

Michigan Basketball, fresh off of its Big Ten championship, was named as a seventh-seed in the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament and will kick things off in Indianapolis on Friday.

Their opening round matchup pits them against Oklahoma State, a team that went 20-12 this season and has one of the most explosive offenses in the country.

We’ll get more into the potential track meet as the week goes on. For now, let’s look at the rest of the region.

Kansas comes in as the top seed in the country and gets the winner of the play-in 16-seed game between NC Central and UC Davis. One would assume they are going to be playing on Sunday against the Winner of the Miami (FL) vs. Michigan State matchup.

Michigan State as a No. 9 seed is a bit of a head scratcher. The bubble was weak this year, so it did not seem likely that they would miss. Whether or not that was “brand bias” there or they benefitted from Mark Hollis on the Selection Committee is something to be debated in the comments section alone.

Still, they do not have an easy opening matchup going against KenPom’s No. 32-ranked team.

Kansas looks like the favorite to come out of the top half of the Midwest Region, but that’s why they play the games. Iowa State and Purdue are the biggest threats and if things hold, they will decide which of them that will be on Saturday if they advance.

Now, for the bottom half.

Creighton-Rhode Island has the makings of a popular upset pick in your bracket pools. Despite the fact that Oregon has lost Chris Boucher for the rest of the year, that’s a team that should still be able to find a way to make the Sweet Sixteen.

Louisville should find themselves playing on Sunday, but the question is who it will be. That’s where the Wolverines come in.

Should Michigan continue to play the way they have, and with a chance at revenge over 2013’s National Title game potentially on the line if they beat Okie State, which is by no means a sure thing. The Wolverines’ shot of playing into the tournament’s second weekend is extremely solid.

Louisville has the size to be a problem for Michigan. Neither of their potential games this weekend will be cakewalks, but hey, welcome to March.

Should Kansas become one of the No. 1 seeds to fall earlier than expected in this tournament, that opens everything up for the Wolverines to potentially make a run. The way that Derrick Walton is playing and the team has elevated around him gives them a chance in any game they play, even if they did get to an Elite Eight showdown with the Jayhawks.

It’s not hard to envision an Elite Eight appearance as the ceiling and it would seem that a run that far and beyond would take some more March magic. However, this team has that “it” factor right now and a lot of people are going to be picking them to go deep.

Michigan nabs No. 7 seed in Midwest Region

March 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Comments Off

The Wolverines open the NCAA Tournament against Oklahoma State.

Michigan Basketball’s NCAA destination has been revealed after winning the Big Ten Tournament.

The Wolverines are the seventh seed in the Midwest region and will be taking on the tenth seed Oklahoma State on Friday in Indianapolis. The game time has yet to be revealed.

It sets up a potential rematch with the two seed Louisville Cardinals, who the Wolverines lost the National Title game to in 2013.

The Cowboys were 20-12 in the Big 12 this season and were led by a high-scoring backcourt of Jawun Evans and Jeffrey Carroll, who average about 36 points per game between the two of them on one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Friday’s game looks like it has the potential to be a track meet.

Here is the look at the rest of the Midwest Region. We’ll have a closer look at what they are up against shortly.

Michigan Caps Wild Week with a Big Ten Tournament Title

March 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Comments Off

The Wolverines wrote the final chapter of an unbelievable week with a 71-56 win over Wisconsin to win the Big Ten Tournament.

Michigan almost didn’t make it to the Big Ten Tournament.

Four days ago, the Wolverines were huddled in a hangar at Willow Run Airport in Detroit. Less than an hour earlier, the plane that was supposed to shuttle them to Washington, D.C. for this tournament aborted takeoff and slid through the end of the runway, stopping just shy of a ravine. Thankfully, they were safe, but they also were shaken, having just experienced one of the scariest moments of their lives.

Yet the Wolverines were scheduled to tip off against Illinois in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament less than 24 hours later. In a city 529 miles away. Without any alternative travel plans and most of their equipment, including their game uniforms, still in the cargo hold of the plane. John Beilein gave his players the choice: go to Washington, D.C. on Thursday morning to compete or forfeit and stay home.

Some players, including Michigan’s leader, Derrick Walton, who had his leg stitched up after suffering a wound in the crash, were unsure about getting on another plane.

But they did.

And four games later, Michigan is your 2017 Big Ten Tournament champion after the No. 8 Wolverines (24-11, 10-8 B1G) beat No. 2 Wisconsin (25-9, 12-6 B1G), 71-56, on Sunday afternoon. They were led by Walton, who was named the Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player. He tallied a game-high 22 points (6-15 FG), seven assists, and six rebounds, while fellow senior Zak Irvin recorded 15 points (6-9 FG), seven rebounds, and five assists and D.J. Wilson registered 17 points (8-11 FG) and six rebounds.

The Big Ten Tournament title game opened as a heavyweight title fight. The Wolverines’ bigs (Moritz Wagner and Wilson) each buried a wing three before the first television timeout to give Michigan an early 8-6 lead. The Wolverines maintained their lead for the remainder of the first half, but any time that they threw a punch and seemed like they were about to pull away, the Badgers responded with a punch of their own. Michigan landed its biggest blow when, with 6:41 left, Walton went on a personal 9-0 run with back-to-back-to-back threes, the last of which was a step-back that had 2011 Kemba Walker written all over it, to give U-M a 10-point lead (30-20). However, the Wolverines then had a difficult time getting open looks inside and scored only one more field goal in the period — a straightaway three from Irvin. In the meantime, Wisconsin relied on its bread and butter with Ethan Happ (14 points and 11 rebounds) finishing three looks at the rim and Bronson Koenig (15 points) drilling two three-pointers from distance, the last of which a pullup seconds before the buzzer sounded. It was a 12-3 run by Wisconsin to cut U-M’s lead to one at halftime (33-32).

But Michigan made sure the run ended coming out of the locker room after the intermission. The Wolverines scored the first six points of the second half and did not permit Wisconsin to score for the first 5:19. With that cushion, Michigan started to make its move as Irvin and Wilson connected twice. The first time, Irvin hit a rolling Wilson on a pick and roll for an open dunk. The second time, Wilson skied for an offensive rebound — U-M’s first of the contest — and passed the ball to Irvin on the left win. Irvin took it to the rim, scooted to the side of a Badger defender to avoid a charge, and finished through contact for an and-one. That quickly, U-M was back up 10.

Michigan had multiple opportunities to blow the game open, but Wagner missed an open three in transition and Irvin was called for an iffy charge. And, like in the first half, the Badgers did not go away easily. They chipped away at Michigan’s lead, and after a Zak Showalter steal and layup with 6:19 left, the Wolverines held just a 51-45 edge.

Michigan was in dire need of a bucket, and on the ensuing possession after a timeout, the shot clock was winding down. Irvin then curled off a screen on the left wing, caught a pass from Duncan Robinson, and fired up a quick three in rhythm. Splash. Then, two minutes later, Robinson imitated Irvin by hitting an identical three.

Again, Michigan was back up 10 points, but this time, Wisconsin had no counter punch. The Badgers had successive empty possessions in the final minutes that led to transition buckets for the Wolverines. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (7 points) slammed home a dunk, Wilson threw one down as well, and then Walton laid one in.

At that point, Michigan led, 65-62, with 1:18 left, and the celebration began.

And the celebration will continue when Michigan hops on a plane for the second time since the crash with a championship trophy from a tournament they almost missed.

Next Page »