Walton Jr. And Michigan Start Cinderella Run Early
The Michigan Wolverines defeat the Wisconsin Badgers by a final score of 71-56. Derrick Walton Jr. and Michigan completed an unlikely run to a Big Ten title in the nations capital. The Michigan Wolverine’s overcame an unfortunate plane accident during takeoff on Wednesday and seized the opportunity that lay ahead in running the table at the Big Ten tournament. This Wolverine squad is clicking on all cylinders and poses as a real threat to make a run in the NCAA tournament. Walton was named Big Ten tournament MVP and has been the catalyst for Michigan’s late season surge. The Wisconsin Badgers were playing well coming into the title game, but they really struggled from the floor only shooting 39% on the day.
Derrick Walton Jr. has shown a capability to lead his team to a level that many didn’t think was possible just a couple of weeks ago. Walton, a stat sheet stuffer as a point guard, finished with 22 points, six rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Walton is an elite level penetrator and when he may struggle with his shot at times he seems to always create other opportunities for his teammates. Walton will be the most important player for the Big Ten champs heading into next weeks NCAA tournament.
Also leading the charge for Michigan was fellow senior guard Zak Irvin. Irvin tallied 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists. The lengthy guard has been shooting at a high level recently and is extremely effective from the mid range or when driving the lane. Irvin will be a huge part of Michigan’s offense and defense if they plan on continuing their magical run late into March. The other bright spot for the Wolverines was junior power forward D.J. Wilson. Wilson played a solid tournament and was an anchor in the post. The solidly built forward (6’10 240) is a physical player with an ability to stretch the floor as well. He provided a toughness that was definitely needed against a scrappy Wisconsin squad. Wilson finished with 17 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block.
Wisconsin struggled to get any offense going during the contest. They had 15 turnovers and only shot 39% on the day. They had zero points from their bench. Wisconsin is normally a team that spreads the ball around and gets contributions from everyone to some extent. That was not the case Sunday. Wisconsin was completely out of rhythm and ran into a buzz-saw in Michigan. Nigel Hayes had 14 points, eleven rebounds and two blocks. Ethan Happ had 14 points, eleven rebounds and three assists. Senior point guard Bronson Koenig scored 15 points.
The all tournament team was as follows
Derrick Walton Jr. – Most Outstanding Player
NCAA Tournament Schedule
Michigan will be a 7 seed in the Mid West Bracket and face 10 seed Oklahoma State Friday at 12:15 p.m.
Wisconsin will be an 8 seed in the East bracket and face 9 seed Virginia Tech Thursday at 9:40 p.m.
Wisconsin – The Definition Of Grit
Wisconsin had its way with Northwestern in the Big Ten semifinal matchup today. The Badgers cruised to a 76 to 48 beat down. Northwestern struggled from the opening tip and never got any resemblance of offense going during the contest. Wisconsin out rebounded them 36-27, and shot 47% compared to the 35% of the Wildcats.
Leading the way for Wisconsin were its two post players Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes. Ethan Happ continues to be super-efficient and productive. He is always in the right spot at the right time. Happ has elite footwork in the post and is much stronger than he appears. He continually is around the ball and comes up with 50/50 balls at a rate that I have never seen. Happ had 16 points on 4 of 6 shooting, while also hitting 8 of 11 at the foul line where he normally struggles. He chipped in eight rebounds and kept countless possessions alive with his hustle. Happ may not look like the most intimidating or impressive specimen but he is a natural basketball player. His smarts and court awareness are already at a high level. Senior forward Nigel Hayes had one of his most effective games of the season. He ended up with 18 points, ten rebounds and two assists. Hayes was working the mid-post game to perfection. Northwestern had no answer for him. He is an extremely physical player and if he can be consistent with his outside shot he has a good chance to succeed in the NBA. Hayes provides versatility with his size (6’8 240) that is a match-up nightmare at the collegiate level. He is stronger than some centers and also has the ability to put the ball on the floor and create for himself or kick out to open teammates. While senior point guard Bronson Koenig struggled on the night the rest of the Badgers squad stepped up. Zak Showalter chipped in ten points and Vitto Brown tallied eight points and eight rebounds.
If Wisconsin can handle business tomorrow against a hot Michigan team it could be in line for a four or five seed in the NCAA tournament. Wisconsin’s tough and gritty style of play is a tough matchup for any team, but a team that might stand a chance is a team with an up tempo style of play like Michigan. Tomorrow should be a solid game to decide who will win the 2017 Big Ten Tournament.
Walton Jr. Leads Michigan To Big Ten Title Game
Derrick Walton Jr. won the battle of the point guards against Nate Mason. Walton led Michigan with 29 points as the Wolverines defeated the Golden Gophers 84-77. Mason chipped in 23 points in the loss.
Michigan will continue its surprising run tomorrow against the winner of Wisconsin and Northwestern. Michigan got off to a huge start in the first half, but Minnesota eventually tied it 55 all midway in the second. That is when Derrick Walton Jr. took over. Walton used his elite quickness and burst to get into the lane and finish at will. He also made several pull up clutch three’s. This was all Michigan needed to pull away late in the game. Walton showed why he is considered one of the best point guards in the Big Ten. He set up his teammates on several occasions. He also has the ability to elevate and chip in on the glass with the big boys. Walton finished with 29 points, nine assists, five rebounds and two steals. Walton will be a huge factor if Michigan looks to make a run next week in the NCAA tournament.
Mo Wagner also provided stability in the post as well as on the perimeter. The 6’11 sophomore power forward made six of seven shots, including two from three. Wagner had 17 points and four rebounds, all of this in just 18 minutes of action due to foul trouble. The other factor for the Wolverines was 6’6 senior shooting guard Zak Irvin. Irvin is at his best when attacking the lane hard, using his athleticism and length to his advantage. He has an ability to hit the three but has been inconsistent this season. Irvin finished with 13 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Michigan is a very dangerous team on offense. The question for them going into the tournament will be can they stop the other team from scoring. Today they did a decent job until the game opened up at the end and Mason got several free lay ups. They will be in line for an eight or a nine seed depending upon how they do in the title game. That will provide them with yet another tough matchup in the first round, and especially if they advance from there. But hey, at least they will avoid Dayton this time….
Wisconsin And Northwestern Set To Meet In Big Ten Semi’s
Wisconsin handled business against Indiana finishing them off in the second half 70-60. Northwestern defeated Maryland, in basically a home game for the Terps, 72-64. Both squads are playing well at the moment and it should provide quite a semifinal matchup on Saturday.
Wisconsin was clicking on all cylinders against Indiana. Five players scored over ten points and they were led by senior point guard Bronson Koenig, who scored 16. Koenig has a knack for hitting big timely shots. He has done it throughout his career and did it on several occasions late in the game. Koenig’s physicality on both sides of the ball provides a matchup problem for smaller and less physical guards. He has a solid shooting stroke when in rhythm and it showed going 4 of 7 from three. Koenig finished with 16 points, five assists and three steals. The other factor for Wisconsin was their rock on the inside. Sophomore power forward Ethan Happ was extremely efficient on the night only missing two shots on nine attempts. Happ is a tough presence in the post and uses his elite footwork to score making up for his lack of athleticism. He also has a nose for the ball on the glass, keeping possessions alive even when being outmanned. Happ finished with 14 points and twelve rebounds.
Northwestern had a trio of contributors that Maryland could not slow down. Scottie Lindsey, a junior shooting guard, hit several tough shots in the lane and while under duress on the perimeter. Lindsey is a physical player that can finish with either hand around the rim. He finished with 17 points. Vic Law is also starting to turn the heads of NBA scouts. His skill set is versatile and he has the potential to be a very effective defender as well. Law, who is a senior, should receive interest in attending the Portsmouth Invitational after the season. Law finished with 17 points, five rebounds and two steals. The most important player for Northwestern is junior point guard Bryant McIntosh. McIntosh is having a solid tournament. He penetrates at will and has ability to mind open players for easy baskets. He is also finishing many tough floaters in the lane as well, which is immensely important for guards at the next level. McIntosh finished with 16 points, six rebounds and two steals.
The matchup between these teams tomorrow should provide a thriller. The difference may be the post advantage Wisconsin has with Happ and Nigel Hayes. Northwestern does not have much to offer to stop that, but they have been underestimated all season. McIntosh will have to play very well, but he has his work cut out for him with Bronson Koenig.
Prediction: Northwestern 73 Wisconsin 70