The Michigan Wolverines are Big Ten Tournament Champions after beating Wisconsin 71-56.
Let the story continue. After taking flight in the Big Ten Tournament, the Wolverines look ready to make a run in the NCAA Tournament — adding to a story that is already rather unbelievable.
Four days. Four games. Four wins. One helluva week.
A day after aborting a takeoff that caused their plane to skid around 400-yards before coming to a halt just short of the ravine, the Wolverines made a choice to catch another plane the next day and make the trip to Washington D.C. A near death experience allowed the Wolverines a team-building moment to rally around each other and play on.
Michigan soared through the tournament posting wins against Illinois, Big Ten regular season champ Purdue, Minnesota, and the conference runner up, Wisconsin. The best part — the Wolverines made it look relatively easy.
Earlier this year, Michigan looked like a team that might fall just short of the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines suffered some tough losses, and seemed to be on the decline. After an embarrassing 85-69 loss to Illinois and a lackadaisical performance against a struggling Ohio State, Michigan turned it on to finish 10-8 in the league. The record is well short of impressive, but the late push seemed to be just enough for the Wolverines to earn a shot at an NCAA Tournament bid.
Michigan’s run through the Big Ten Tournament, however, made the Wolverines one of the hottest teams in the nation. And at times, they look like one of the best teams in the nation. Especially when they are shooting lights out and playing solid defense. The addition of Billy Donlon has been incredible. It took a few months, but Michigan’s defense has played the most important role during its late-season run.
Without question, Big Ten Tournament MVP Derrick Walton Jr. was the best player on the floor at all times. He scored 22 points in an effort to top the Badgers, and averaged 20.5 points, 6.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game. He made big plays, during big moments, in big games.
Zak Irvin is back to playing his best ball as well, which is absolutely crucial for the Wolverines. Since the last game of the regular season, Irvin is averaging 14.8 points per game and shooting at a much better clip. The best part? He’s not settling for jump shots. His ability to attack the rim really provided Michigan with an extra spark as the squad made its run through the tournament.
Michigan needs both Walton and Irvin to show up big in what will be their finally games as Wolverines. It’s a lot to take in, and there is more to come, but you’ve got to be extremely proud of both of those guys and how they are playing.
Michigan doesn’t need March magic just yet. Good, sound basketball will be enough to beat Oklahoma State and Louisville. If the Wolverines can achieve that, let the madness begin!