Ya'll Act Like It's Over and It Hasn't Even Started

The Big Ten Tournament commences on Wednesday with the bottom four in action. 

The Wolverines draw their first ever double bye (a concept with a short history), and their first bye of any kind in five years.  The B1G Tournament darlings the last couple years, Michigan has kind of made a thing about playing and winning a bunch of days in a row.  Which bodes well for tournaments and TOURNAMENTS ARE WHAT THIS ENTIRE SPORT AND ALL OTHER SPORTS ARE COMPLETELY DECIDED BY SO IF WE ARE GOOD AT TOURNAMENTS THEN WE ARE ACTUALLY JUST GOOD.

Anyway, Thursday puts everyone in action except the top four - Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin, and Lou Anna’s Thundering Turds.  Michigan will get whomever comes out of Northwestern/Illinois vs Iowa.  We did get boat raced by Iowa in our only meeting, so that is not ideal.  Of note, Hollis’s Homies will play the winner of Indiana - Ohio State, with Izzo’s Moronsorliars having provided 25% of Indiana’s Big Ten wins.

Ideally, Michigan meets Perles’s Boys in the finals on Sunday for a third crack at things, revenge tour and shit, etc, etc.  But I’m not going to be heartbroken if Engler’s Warriors exit early.  Other potholes are present of course, with chalk lining up a likely rematch with the Boilermakers on Saturday.  They will be looking to avenge that beatdown Michigan imposed way back when those weird early Big Ten games hit the schedule.

Look, things do not appear stellar for Michigan with that regular season finale, but they literally almost never have looked good going in to this week.  What’s nice is that they are operating from a much better position seed-wise than they have in a long time, and they have a rested defensive juggernaut waiting to emerge from an injury. 

And this team deserves your respect.  MAAR, Mo, and Duncan exit, and they have the greatest start in program history and the most regular season wins in program history.  Ya, I’m sorry you couldn’t talk shit to your family veterinarian, your UPS store manager, or the janitor in your office building.  I promise you I’m as pissed as you, but there are bigger things to worry about…as well as a possibility of still talking shit to all of them on Sunday.

This is when the magic happens.  When some guy the casual fanbase has never heard of drops a double double.  When someone gets hot for a few weeks.  This is it.  This is when we burn the boats.

Way Back When-sday Pic of the Week

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March 13, 2011 - Before there was Trey, Nik, and Glenn, it was Zak, Stu, Darius, Tim and J-Mo.  Talk about a different time...Michigan started the conference portion of the season going 1-6 but (including the first win at the Nasser Center since 1997) finished at 9-9 which was good enough for 4th place in the conference, and somehow an 8-seed in the tournament, where they would dispatch of Tennessee before falling by 2 to the 1-seeded Duke Blue Devils.  I joined a gathering of the Maize Rage looking on as Michigan got it's bid.

About That Seed

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Tough to say if Big Ten Tournament timing had a positive or negative effect on the Wolverines' seeding.  On the one hand, the world got to watch us smother the Cornhuskers, Spartans, and Boilermakers because no one else was playing.  On the other hand, the world watched everybody else in the days and hours leading up to the selection (shit) show while Michigan sat at home.

Sure, by basically every metric, Michigan is better than Michigan State (and this is easily expanded to all metrics beyond basketball and sports of course), and going in to the tournament, Sparty is going to have to make the Final Four to salvage what may be classified as the worst 4-loss season in college basketball history.  But I'm not going to quibble over a few spaces with a team full of (undeveloped and whiny) talent like Michigan State has.  Yes, they got Detroit.  Yes, they seem to have a little easier path through the first weekend.  They also started the season at #2 and lost only 4 games.  Michigan started unranked and lost 7.  Tough to argue.  And despite the complete lack of team chemistry (or defense), watching the occasional brilliance of Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson makes all the difference.  This committee is the same group of experts that let Trae Young dance and he's only won two games since Feb 1.  This is about money.  The same money that put the Wolverines in the Outback Bowl and sent Sparty to the Screw-You-Nobody-Wants-to-Watch-You Bowl which I believe aired on tape delay on Christmas Day.  Besides, after the first weekend, assuming we both make it through and seeds hold, Sparty will have a date with blue bloods, while Michigan will pick through a pile of mid-majors with a dream.

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The Wolverines went from unranked to 3-seed.  From bordering on the bubble a week into February to back to back Big Ten Champions.  Almost a great season already.  But there's still work to be done, and coming up short of getting out of the first weekend will make things feel a little incomplete.

Moving on.  Montana is on deck, and if all goes reasonably well a matchup with the winner of Houston and San Diego State will follow.  Typical caveats of double digit upstart opponent danger apply.  Fill in your own difficult matchup conversation here, either with Montana, then Houston or San Diego State.  Every 2,3, and 4-seed is hearing the same story, and their fanbases are having the same anxiety.  Somebody's worry is going to be warranted.  Things can go wrong.  We've got plenty of things that can - ice cold from 3, foul trouble, free throw shooting.  But there are a lot more ways for things to go right, and I believe we will be talking about Los Angeles at this time next week.  And I also believe in the Bisons.

We Are the Ones Who Knock

Julie Jacobson / AP

Julie Jacobson / AP

If ever there were a Big Ten Championship game that was tough to get up for, it was this one.  As much as a matching banner and Purdue revenge were unchecked boxes on the to do list, the previous afternoon felt so good, it would be tough to feel better.

But we do.

After dodging a bullet on Thursday, Michigan manhandled three of the top four seeds of the Big Ten en route to back-to-back Big Ten tournament championships.  

The team you punched a wall about less than a month ago just cut down the nets at Madison Square Garden.  The team you wrote off into a "maybe next year" scenario is the only team to have beaten every one of the other 13 Big Ten teams at least once.  Some, like Michigan State, they beat twice.  The team you questioned even as recently as this week, wondering if they could upset some of the top tier teams in the Big Ten and make a run at a banner, has dominated.  And they were not upsets.  Michigan was the team to beat.  Michigan was the aggressor.  They are the ones who knock.

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Wagner was named "Most Outstanding Player" of the Big Ten tournament, but Moe insists the award belongs to his teammates.  And he is most certainly correct.  Jon Teske was the man on Thursday, filling in for Wagner when he got into foul trouble, and again today, when he actually had more minutes than Moe, as Coach Beilein tried to throw every option he could at Purdue's mutant Ivan Drago.  

Mutant Ivan still had 23 points on 9-12 shooting.  HOWEVA, Teske and Wagner combined for 31, so there's that.  Zavier Simpson has gone from being benched early in the season for PG by committee to on the cusp of a Burke or a Walton (minus FT%).  He became a focus of a few timely articles, and all are worth a read:

That last one is behind the paywall at The Athletic, but you should throws those folks some cash, they make a good product.

Anyway, seems like X could become that tournament guy we've been looking for, but the truth is, there are so many role players on this team that can carry them a game, a round, or even to San Antonio.  

Some questions remain:  Will free throws eventually bite us in the ass?  Can we just practice free throws continuously until the tournament?  What will be the effects of this long layoff?  If we play in Detroit instead of Sparty, will they cry for a week, a month, or forever #disrespekt?

Well, we've got 11 or 12 long days to find the answers.  For now, enjoy the championship, and hope that we don't cool off too much in a fortnight.  

Oh, and get yourself in a bracket picking mindset, the field is released in a week (so weird that it's not tonight...friggin' Delaney) and it will be time for the 19th Annual UMTailgate.com tournament challenge.

Go Blue Forever