The Michigan Wolverines completed a week long run many didn’t expected. Michigan, riding seniors Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin, beat Wisconsin, 71-56, on Sunday to claim the program’s first conference tournament title since 1998.
When Tournament play began , many had either Purdue or Wisconsin being crowned kings of the Big Ten. The Wolverines enjoyed a memorable run in the tournament on the heels of a somewhat disappointing regular season in which they went 10-8 in the league.
On Thursday, Michigan eliminated an Illinois team that was fighting for its NCAA Tournament life. On Friday, the Wolverines sent the No. 1 seed, Purdue, packing. On Saturday, Michigan beat a Minnesota team that had won nine of its last 10 games. Now the Wolverines are Big Ten champions.
Before helping cut down the net, Michigan coach John Beilein gathered his players to deliver an emotional message.
“What I told them is, ‘You’re going to come back 20 years from now and that trophy is going to sit there and you’re going to tell your grandkids about those five days and what happened. You’ll love it forever.'”
Michigan charged into Sunday’s title game as winners in nine of their last 11 games, a stretch coming on Walton’s sturdy shoulders. Derrick Walton Jr was named Big Ten Tournament MVP.
“We overcame a lot,” Walton said. “Had a lot of trials and tribulations. All I can say is God is good. We’re here for a reason.”
Michigan came out confident for the fourth day in a row, took an early lead and played from ahead nearly the entire game. It built a 10-point lead in the first half only to see Wisconsin come back. It rebuilt that double-digit lead in the second half and kept the Badgers at a safe distance.
The Badgers couldn’t get into an offensive rhythm all game. Wisconsin’s Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ combined to score 43 points, but they shot just 17-41 from the field. Bronson Koenig scored 13 points in the first half, including a late 3-pointer that cut Michigan’s lead to 33-32, but had just two points in the second half. Koenig missed all seven of his field-goal attempts in the second half.
Next Up For The Big Ten Tournament Champs
Michigan will be the No. 7 seed in the Midwest and open the NCAA Tournament against Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State went 20-12 this season and has one of the most explosive offenses in the country. Wisconsin will enter the NCAA Tournament as a No. 8 seed in the East Region and will first face Virginia Tech.
The Big Ten Tournament Continues To Travel East
The first Big Ten Tournament in the nation’s capital ended with a large crowd cheering for two teams with absolutely no local ties. Next year, the Big Ten Tournament will be held in New York at Madison Square Garden. Time will tell if the east region will continue to embrace the Big Ten.