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.
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:
- Zavier Simpson: Michigan's alpha dog
- Michigan's Zavier Simpson ready for Cassius Winston, Michigan State
- The story of Zavier Simpson and the defensive dogs of Michigan
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