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Michigan advances to NCAA First Round, but it sure wasn’t pretty

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March is all about survive and advance — and no game represented that better than the battle of No. 11 seeds Michigan and Tulsa in the final First Four matchup of the 2016 NCAA tournament. It was far from pretty, but the Wolverines did the little things that mattered in a 67-62 victory.

Normally, teams shooting just 6-25 from three-point range and 40 percent from the field overall find themselves on the losing end of things. However, Michigan turned up the heat defensively and helped its own case in holding Tulsa to just 20 percent shooting from the field (3-15).

The Wolverines and Golden Hurricane were locked in an ugly struggle for most of the contest, but the lids finally came off the basket in the final five minutes. What was ugly turned in to one entertaining NCAA tournament contest, and Michigan’s effort was led by guard Muhammad-ali Abdur-Rahkman’s 16 points.

Abdur-Rahkman had help in the second half, and four Michigan players ended up in double figures. Fellow guard Duncan Robinson had himself a double double, scoring 13 points to go with 11 rebounds. U-M also got a 16-point night from forward Zak Irvin and 12 points from star guard Derrick Walton, Jr.

Ultimately it was that team effort that would overcome a game Tulsa squad, who was led by Shaquille Harrison’s game-high 23 points (10-13 shooting from the field). He also added seven rebounds and five assists in the losing effort.

The first half of the contest could only be described as ugly, but Michigan had a somewhat commanding lead at 28-20 going in to the half.

It didn’t matter much though, as the Golden Hurricane went off coming out of the intermission. Tulsa immediately went on a 12-4 run to tie up the ballgame at 32-32 to start the second half.

However, Tulsa couldn’t take a lead until it went up 38-36 with 13:04 to go in the second half. All it did was spark two offenses that were dormant for most of the night.

The two teams would trade baskets and leads for the better part of the next five minutes. In fact, neither team led by more than two points until Michigan finally broke through with a three-pointer from Robinson and a jumper by Abdur-Rahkman gave U-M a 49-45 lead with 8:03 to play.

Michigan couldn’t extend the lead beyond that though, and the rest of the game was an absolute back-and-forth battle that saw no fewer than 15 lead changes heading in to the final minute of the game.

Ultimately, the Wolverines were able to pull away thanks to its ability to hit free throws (13-16) on the night. Michigan went 5-6 from the charity stripe in the final minute alone with the lone miss being the final take of the night with Michigan already up 67-62.

While the survival was important, Michigan will need a much better effort if it is going to take out a very high-powered Notre Dame offense. A return to its own hot shooting from beyond the arc would certainly be helpful, but that may be asking too much of a team who has lived on the edge of the NCAA tournament field all season long.

No doubt the Wolverines will celebrate getting in to the field of 64, but this game also showed there is plenty of work ahead if this team wants to do anything other than be an afterthought to this 2016 NCAA tournament.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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Michigan continues Big Ten’s unlucky streak in NCAA tourney title game

Michigan’s hot-hand ran in to a three-point machine known as the Villanova Wildcats and the results meant another loss from a Big Ten team in the national championship game.

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Michigan came in to Monday night’s NCAA tournament national championship game as the hottest team in America. It had won 13-straight games and dominated the vast majority of the time.

However, 13 proved to be an unlucky number for the Wolverines as they ran in to the buzzsaw known as the Villanova Wildcats and were downed 79-62 in front of a packed Alamodome crowd.

Just how dominate were the Wildcats? Their 17-point margin of victory was the largest for a national title game since Duke beat the very same Wolverines program by 20 points in 1992.

More than anything in this game Michigan ran straight in to the buzzsaw named Donte DiVincenzo. The Villanova reserve guard had himself a game of a lifetime, pouring in 31 points on 10 of 15 shooting from the field. That included him going 5 of 7 from beyond the arc and 6 of 10 from the free throw line.

Fellow Wildcats guard Mikal Bridges added 19 points and Villanova hit 10 three-pointers as a team in the win.

The Wolverines simply couldn’t execute its own gameplan for most of the night, going just 3 of 23 from beyond the arc and had an awful time of it in the second half especially.

Michigan had nearly as many made field goals as they did turnovers in the second half. As a result, Villanova was able to stretch a nine-point halftime lead in to a 20-point or more advantage for large parts of the second half.

Mo Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman tried to keep the Wolverines in the game, going for 16 and 23 points respectively, but most of their damage was done in the first half.

With the loss, Michigan has now twice lost in the national championship game in the past decade. The loss also means the Big Ten continues an 18-year drought without a national title from any team in the conference.

Michigan State’s title win in 2000 still stands as the last time a B1G team cut down the nets as a national title winner.

It is also the seventh loss from a Big Ten conference team since the MSU win back in 2000. The Big Ten has seen a plethora of teams extend this drought too, as Illinois, Indiana, Michigan (twice), Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin have all failed to bring home the national title in that time span.

Let’s just say the pain of losing on college basketball’s biggest stage isn’t a new feeling for teams from the Big Ten and even Michigan’s hot run to the title game wasn’t enough to stop the hottest shooting team in the whole tournament.

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Michigan proves it is more than Derrick Walton in upset of Louisville

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Derrick Walton has been a marvelous story so far in March. But, if anyone though the Wolverines were a one-man show, Sunday’s 73-69 upset of No. 2 seed Louisville should put those thoughts to rest. 

On a day when most believed the senior point guard would need to carry this team on his back, Walton was largely ineffective for large swaths of this game. He had just 10 points on 3 of 13 shooting and hit just 2 of 7 three-point attempts on the day.

It should’ve been season over for a team that needs three-pointers to fall in order to win. That was allegedly the case against a long Louisville team as well, but instead Walton was picked up by teammates all game long.

That’s not to say he didn’t have any importance to the game, far from it. After all, he hit a crucial three-pointer to put the Wolverines up 61-57 with 5:50 to play. Walton also gave Michigan the crucial four-point lead at 69-65 with 31 seconds to play.

However, the Wolverines and Walton aren’t in position to pull the upset if it weren’t for the rest of the starting lineup coming up huge as Walton struggled.

As Michigan continues its incredible March run, this time it was the big men getting the job done.

Sophomore forward Moritz Wagner was the star of the show on Saturday, pouring in a career-high 26 points on an incredible 11 of 14 shooting from the field. It was all Wagner, all the time in the second half on Saturday.

Anything and everything he wanted down low, he got. That is good news for a player that was so important for most of Michigan’s February turnaround and had cooled off so much over the past two weeks.

Wagner put up 15 of his 26 points in the second half alone, leading his team to shooting 63 percent from the field in the second half.

He wasn’t the only big man to come up big in this contest either. D.J. Wilson also showed up huge in the second half, as he put up 11 of his 17 points in the second half as well.

Those 11 points also included four straight made free throws in the final 17 seconds of the game to salt the victory away for Michigan.

Michigan has now reeled off six straight victories, and it has managed to get it done in a variety of ways. No longer will teams see the Wolverines as just Derrick Walton and some others coming along for the ride.

This team is still finding a variety of ways to get it done heading in to the Sweet 16 in the Midwest regional.

It is only fitting that this miracle story is heading to Kansas City.

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Derrick Walton’s magical March continues in Michigan’s win over Oklahoma State

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Few stories were as good last week as that of the Michigan Wolverines and their run to the Big Ten tournament title. Could that magic extend to the NCAA tournament? 

The answer was much the same as it was last week — ask Derrick Walton Jr.

After all, he lifted the Wolverines to a Big Ten tournament crown with some of the best individual play we’ve seen in the B1G tourney in some time. That led to a B1G tourney MVP honor for him and the tourney title trophy for his team.

Walton looked like he would cool off a bit on Friday, starting 1 of 6 from the field. However, that didn’t last long and every one of his 26 points were vital in a wild 92-91 victory over the Cowboys. He added 11 assists for another unconventional double double as well.

He credited the ability to slow down mentally and the confidence from his teammates at the half for the turnaround.

“It’s just the mindset and the trust these guys have in me, it makes me go out and just play much more free just knowing they have a lot of confidence in me,” Walton said following the game.

His six made three-pointers also helped propel the rest of the team to new heights behind the arc. Michigan went a crazy 11 of 15 from deep in the second half alone, finishing the game with a school record 16 made three-pointers for the game.

The volume was nice, but so was Michigan’s ability to do it efficiently. U-M shot a blazing 16 of 29 from beyond the arc on the day.

Naturally, Walton’s final made triple came at a very opportune time. He put the Wolverines up 76-68 with 6:47 to play. It was Michigan’s largest lead the entire game and certainly made the Pokes have to chase things the rest of the way.

Michigan also got some help from its defense in what wasn’t a very defensive game by the scoreboard. However, the Wolverines got the Pokes to turn over the ball 10 times and that led to 15 points on the other end of the court.

The reverse didn’t happen for the usually turnover-creating Oklahoma State defense, as Michigan only coughed it up for times on the day.

All of it combined to somehow overcome Oklahoma State pounding the Wolverines down low. The Cowboys not only owned the boards (40-21), but had a 50-20 advantage in points in the paint.

However, Walton simply wasn’t going to let his team lose this game. Not only did 19 of his 26 points come in the crazy second half, he put in what could be described as the final nail in the coffin with 54.6 seconds to play.

With the two teams trading the lead over the final 10 minutes of the game, Walton’s floater with just under a minute gave Michigan a three-possession lead. It also was a momentum killer, coming after Oklahoma State’s Jawun Evans missed the front end of a one-and-one situation.

D.J. Wilson, who had 19 points of his own in the win, grabbed the rebound and Walton finished at the other end. That basket made the Cowboys chase the rest of the game.

It also seemed to be yet another poetic finishing move for Walton Jr. in a magical postseason.

But, will Walton be able to continue his magical run when faced with No. 2 Louisville on Sunday? If so, don’t be surprised to see the Wolverines making more noise than ever thought possible in this tournament.

 

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Will Chris Webber ever get over his issues with Michigan Wolverines?

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Chris Webber is one of the central figures in Michigan Wolverines basketball history. As part of the famous Fab 5, Webber nearly took the program back to a national championship.

The Fab 5 also made Michigan basketball as cool as the football program was in the mid-1990’s. However, a massive booster scandal tarnished much of what was accomplished on the basketball court.

Webber was a central figure in that scandal and the court battle that eventually went down. Things were extremely ugly and the University of Michigan’s 1992 and 1993 Final Four runs were stricken from official history. Additionally the Wolverines program wound up firing Steve Fisher, received a one-year postseason ban and were stripped of a scholarship for the 2002 season.

There was also a 10-year dissociation for all four players involved in the legal case and NCAA investigation. In the end, Webber’s association with Martin was the driving force behind all of it.

Following a 10-year NCAA mandated dissociation between the Fab 5 kingpin, Webber, and the school, nothing has seemed to improve the relationship on Webber’s part. In fact, earlier this week he decided to rain on the Big Ten tournament champions parade.

According to MLive.com, Webber had a lot to say about the program, while trying to hedge his bets for a player who came to Michigan from his AAU program in Detroit.

“And whether it’s a school that, for some reason, doesn’t embrace you and you did everything you could for them,” Webber told Rich Eisen on Monday, “you still look at those kids and you go, ‘Man, I cannot wait to see them guys fulfill their dreams.'”

What exactly is Webber’s current beef with Michigan? Are they not showing his massive ego enough love compared to the rest of the Fab 5 — Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson?

After all, all four of those former players have been welcomed back at various times in the past. They’ve all been able to kiss and make up, but Webber continues to hold some sort of grudge against a school that he perceived threw him under the bus after two years of playing for them.

There’s no doubt that there are hurt feelings on both sides, and that those feelings have boiled over in recent years. Webber began feuding with Rose and King after ESPN’s famed 30 for 30 did a documentary on the Fab 5 back in 2015.

After Webber fired off some personal attacks on Rose and King, calling them “Hollywood” and misrepresenting themselves and Webber, King fired back.

“I’m embarrassed, and I’m disappointed, in how he’s chosen to go about this,” King said in a 2015 radio interview, via College Basketball Talk. “I think he has personal issues. I think he likes a little drama, carrying on with certain things, as far as relationships are concerned, that could have been handled years ago. I think that it’s a personal flaw that he has.”

No one had more harsh words for Webber than Rose, who was once the closest person to Webber on the team.

“One dude lied to grand jury and hasn’t apologized,” said Rose in the same College Basketball Talk article. “One dude tried to circumvent the documentary to HBO. One dude ignored multiple requests from everyone involved after agreeing to participate. One dude played like (President) Obama and sat in a suite during Michigan’s recent title game. One dude slandered Ed Martin after all he did for him and his family. One dude is not in contact with the other four (which is all good). One dude has been doing a rebuttal doc for four years. One dude clearly is delusional and still in denial.”

We are now nearly two years removed from the 30 for 30 documentary and Webber still is taking shots at the program. He is still clearly unaware of what he chose to do and whom he chose to hurt in the process.

It is difficult to understand where Webber stands. It is also sad to see a grown man unable to admit the clear wrongdoing he did. Until then, does he really expect Michigan to welcome him with anything but closed doors?

Webber seems to believe that the University of Michigan and the athletic department did him wrong. Yet, it is actually Webber and his actions that did so many other people wrong.

His actions led to someone not getting a dream scholarship to the University of Michigan. His actions led to a post-season ban. His actions led to Steve Fisher getting fired. His actions led to the 10-year ban.

Given his total lack of understanding of the situation and his role in it, don’t expect Webber to kiss and make up with the Michigan basketball program at any point in the near future.

We’ll never say never to a make-up between the two sides. But, it sure likes that will happen closer to never than tomorrow and that is truly sad.

[MLive.com]

 

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