The Michigan Wolverines pulled off a magical run in the Big Ten tournament that hardly anyone saw coming after their plane went off the runway on their way to the conference tournament.
Michigan responded with a Big Ten Tournament run
The Wolverines, playing in their practice jerseys, ended up winning the first game of the tournament against the Illinois Fighting Illini 75-55 just one day after that incident. Since, they've been unstoppable. After rattling off wins against the Purdue Boilermakers, in overtime, and the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the Wolverines took on an impressive Wisconsin Badgers team, and would win the Big Ten tournament title in dominating fashion.
The Wolverines were up 33-32 at the half to set up what looked like a potential instant classic. Michigan would have none of it, and led by Derrick Walton Jr. would win their first Big Ten title since 1998 when the Fab Five won it (since vacated) on their way to a championship game appearance.
The Wolverines have won two tough games vs. great teams
If the last time Michigan won a Big Ten title is any sign, this team could also make such a run. The magic that the Wolverines have had so far this run is clear. The Wolverines won the first game of the tournament over the Oklahoma State Cowboys in a thrilling 92-91 classic. Walton and the rest of the Wolverines held off a late rally from the Jawon Evans led Cowboys late to pull one seemingly out of their hats.
During that game, Walton had 26 points, going 7/13 on field goals including a remarkable 6/9 from three point distance. Moritz Wagner had two early fouls, letting him play only 14 minutes all game, earning six points and three rebounds in what was an extremely guard heavy game.
On Sunday, Michigan completely flipped the script. Walton got off to a terrible start, and never recovered. Over the course of the game he was 3/13 on field goals, including 2/7 from three point range.
Even Zak Irvin, another key player in the Wolverines win over Oklahoma State didn't have the best game ever, shooting 5/9 and 1/2 from three for only 11 points. It was the big men this time, Wagner and D.J. Wilson, who came up big for the Wolverines.
Big men come up big in clutch moments
Wilson, who has been arguably the most underrated player on the Wolverines, had yet another fantastic game, playing great defense for a majority of the game, drawing key defenders away from Wagner in the paint, all while still putting up stats. He ended up going 6/13 with 17 points, including going 4/4 on clutch free throws to seal the game at the end, hitting both ends of a one and one before sinking both shots from a double bonus. Wilson also had three blocks, including a key one late on a last second three point attempt from the Louisville Cardinals to seal it in favor of the Wolverines 73-69.
Wagner, who struggled against a fast break, transition-heavy Oklahoma State team in the Round of 64 on Friday, was well rested after playing only 14 minutes that game. He'd show it, having a remarkable game, and was easily the biggest factor of the day for the Wolverines. Wagner went 11/14 on field goal attempts, including a perfect 1/1 on three point shots. He, like Wilson, also played a key part on defense, earning two key steals. Both Wagner and Wilson had tough match-ups against Mangok Mathiang and Anas Mahmoud.
Michigan has the talent, momentum, to shock the world
Every year there's always that one team that shocks the world. Last year, the 10-seed Syracuse Orange got all the way to the Final Four. 2015 it was the seven-seed Michigan State Spartans. The 2014 National Championship was a battle between the 7-seed Connecticut Huskies and 8-seed Kentucky Wildcats.
2013, the last time the Wolverines made the Final Four, Michigan and Syracuse were four seeds, and the Wichita State Shockers were a nine seed. The last time that a Final Four had no seeds lower than four was in 2012, when the Louisville Cardinals were the only non-one or two seed (four).
The way Michigan has played over the last two weeks has shown the world that they can be that team this year. They outscored Oklahoma State in an offensive showdown led by their guard play, and they out-defended Louisville in a battle of big men. They can play up-tempo and half-court, they can defend, attack the paint, and shoot the three. The Wolverines are one of the most balanced teams in the nation right now, and they are playing like it. They're one of the few teams that can win a different way on any given night against any given team. Michigan is a team to watch the rest of the way, and the win over Louisville only reinforced that.