The NCAA Tournament is the most wonderful time of the year for college basketball fans, and for each team that qualified for the March Madness Tournament on Sunday, the dream of a NCAA Tournament championship is alive and kicking. One team that will head into tourney with a ton of confidence is the Michigan Wolverines.
According to a Freep report, the Wolverines claimed their first Big Ten Tournament championship since the 1997-98 season with a 71-56 victory over Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Center. Derrick Walton Jr. once again was the floor leader for the Wolverines in the Big Ten title game. Walton Jr. scored 22 points, D.J. Wilson added 17, and Zak Irvin had 15 for the champion Wolverines. The win was a rare one for the University of Michigan, which had lost 17 of its previous 20 games against the Wisconsin Badgers.
The key once again in the title game was hot shooting for Michigan, as they shot 56 percent and were 10 for 23 from beyond the arc.
Winning the title is something these kids will never forget, however, doing so after the way the trip to the Big Ten Tournament began almost seems like fate.
Hoisting the Big Ten championship trophy yesterday afternoon completed a memorable five-day stretch that began with a major scare for the club. Last Wednesday, the Wolverines’ team plane slid off the runway following an aborted takeoff attempt. After taking a deep breath and rescheduling their flight, the Wolverines went on to make history.
Our team and everyone in our travel party is safe. Update on today's travel accident.
— Michigan Basketball (@umichbball) March 8, 2017
U-M flew out on game day (March 8), arriving at the arena less than two hours before tipping off against the Fighting Illini. Talk about zero turnaround time. The No. 8-seeded Wolverines proceeded to dismantle Illinois that day and went on to defeat Purdue, Minnesota, and Wisconsin to become the lowest-seeded team in history to win the Big Ten Tournament – and one of the main reasons why is the play of their senior captain.
Right now, no one is hotter in the Big Ten, and possibly the entire NCAA, than Derrick Walton Jr.
While many outlets reported that no injuries were suffered when the Michigan team plane skidded off the runway, that wasn’t totally true. Land of Ten reported that Walton injured his knee and needed stitches due to the plane incident, yet he went on to carry the Wolverines to the championship and a guaranteed NCAA Tournament berth.
Injured or not, Walton was the star player on the court in every game, including the Big Ten title game vs. Wisconsin when he scored 22 points, dished out seven assists and grabbed six rebounds.
Now the question is can Walton and the Wolverines carry this hot play into the NCAA Tournament?
Momentum is a big thing in sports, and right now the Wolverines are on some kind of roll. Winners of five games in a row and 10 of their last 12 overall, don’t be surprised if the No. 7 seeded Wolverines make some noise in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
Michigan will face Oklahoma State in the first round of NCAA Tournament action on Thursday, March 16, and if they should advance to Round 2, they would play the winner of the Louisville/Jacksonville State match-up. While OSU and Louisville would be very tough opponents out of the gate, you can never underestimate the power of winning as an underdog in sports. A nice winning streak can build a lot of confidence and turn any team into a team of destiny.
Could the Michigan Wolverines be that Cinderella team in the 2017 NCAA Tournament? The way they are playing right now, don’t doubt it!
[Featured Image by Rob Carr/Getty Images]