Champions! Michigan Grabs Big Ten Tournament Title
Mar 13 2017 by Alex Thomas
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The University of MI men's basketball team claimed its first Big Ten Tournament championship since the 1997-98 season with a decisive 71-56 victory over Wisconsin Sunday afternoon (March 12) at the Verizon Center. Two months ago, MI was 14-9 and labeled soft on defense, and John Beilein was searching for answers. "These guys were so dialed in, against a really good Wisconsin team, they just all took it personally. You'll love it forever".
MI began the tournament in fumes, jumping out of a damaged plane that slid off the runway at Willow Run Airport. The next day, with their real uniforms, they upset top seed Purdue in overtime.
"It means so much to all of us", senior guard Zak Irvin said.
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Greg Gard's players reminded the Wildcats and the rest of the Big Ten that UW can be a formidable foe when it marries defensive intensity with offensive efficiency. The Wolverineswon the inaugural event 19 years ago but later vacated due to sanctions imposed from the Ed Martin scandal.
"You get it based on your championships and how successful you are as a team, but that shouldn't take away anything from his successes as an individual", former Maryland star Steve Blake recently said.
As a reward, MI will be the No. 7 seed in the Midwest and open the NCAA Tournament against Oklahoma State.
"We're going to be fine", Collins said. "Had a lot of trials and tribulations".
"I dreamed it", Walton said on the floor after beating Wisconsin. "We're here for a reason".
UW shot 26.7 percent in the second half and committed nine of its 15 turnovers after halftime.
The Badgers looked so good during their winning streak and so ordinary in this one. "For us, we just could never get into rhythm".
Virginia Tech, meanwhile, was tabbed as a 9-seed, and also has a tough matchup, drawing the 8-seed Wisconsin Badgers.
The Badgers play at 2 p.m. Sunday against No. 8 MI (23-11), an 84-77 victor over No. 4 Minnesota earlier Saturday. However, the Wolverines then had a hard time getting open looks inside and scored only one more field goal in the period - a straightaway three from Irvin. After the game, coach John Beilein points to freakish defensive lapses and says last year's Tournament appearance may have fooled MI into thinking it is better than it really is. Irvin then curled off a screen on the left wing, caught a pass from Duncan Robinson, and fired up a quick three in rhythm.
"First of all, thanks to all of the great MI fans in the house".
The Wolverines and Badgers are both projected to be No. 6 seeds in the NCAA Tournament in the latest ESPN bracketology update. Halfway through league play, Michigan's defense started to catch up with its ultra-efficient offense, and the Big Ten Tournament champs enter the NCAA Tournament playing as well as any team in the country.
Michigan: Can advance to the Big Ten final with a third win in three days.
Next year, the tournament will be held in NY at Madison Square Garden.
Michigan, the Big Ten Tournament Champion, is a No. 7 seed in the Midwest Region and is bound for Indianapolis to compete in first and second round action.
Now Michigan will soon learn where it's headed for the NCAA Tournament.