Walton Jr. And Michigan Start Cinderella Run Early

Walton Jr. And Michigan Start Cinderella Run Early

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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.

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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.

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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

 

Ethan Happ

Nigel Hayes

Bronson Koenig

Zak Irvin

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.

Gritconsin

Wisconsin – The Definition Of Grit

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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.

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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.