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Michigan big men D.J. Wilson, Moritz Wagner testing waters in NBA Draft

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Michigan big men D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner are testing the waters for the 2017 NBA Draft, the duo confirmed on Monday.

The 6-foot-10 Wilson and 6-foot-11 Wagner were both standout players at times during Michigan’s run to the Sweet 16 this season as both are intriguing prospects because they can space the floor at their size.

A redshirt junior, Wilson averaged 11.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while shooting 53 percent from the field and 37 percent from three-point range. One of the most versatile defensive big men in the Big Ten, Wilson has a lot of upside as he’s a bit of a late-bloomer.

Wagner averaged 12.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game as a sophomore as he shot 56 percent from the field and 39 percent from three-point range. Wagner had a huge game against Louisville in the second round in helping the Wolverines advance to the Sweet 16.

Both Michigan big men stated that they are not hiring an agent at this time as they’re able to navigate this process and potentially return to the Wolverines for next season.

If both big men return, Michigan would have some question marks at point guard in replacing senior Derrick Walton Jr. but the rest of the lineup could be talented and experienced pieces led by this frontcourt.

Wagner leads No. 7 Michigan past No. 2 Louisville to advance to Sweet 16

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INDIANAPOLIS — Despite senior point guard Derrick Walton Jr. finally coming back down to Earth, No. 7 seed Michigan remained red-hot with a 73-69 second-round upset win over No. 2 seed Louisville on Sunday in the Midwest Region.

Walton only went 3-for-13 from the field, and finished with 10 points, but he attacked the basket and made a tough, driving layup with Michigan only leading by two with 23 seconds left.

Although Walton couldn’t figure out his shot until late in the game, he was picked up in a big way by his Wolverine teammates — specifically the inspired play of sophomore big man Moe Wagner.

Finishing with 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting, Wagner was the interior force that the Wolverines needed to match up with Louisville’s bigs. Wagner is a talented perimeter threat for a big man but most of his damage came on the interior.

Winners of seven consecutive games, Michigan (26-11) is one of the most dangerous teams left in the Sweet 16, especially if Walton is able to get back on track. D.J. Wilson also added 17 points for Michigan while senior Zak Irvin also finished in double-figures with 11 points. Walton struggled to find his shot, but still contributed a solid overall floor game as he added six assists and seven rebounds while not turning the ball over one time.

Louisville (25-9) held the lead for the nearly the entire game until Michigan mounted its final charge. The Cardinals held a double-digit rebounding advantage (33-22) over Michigan but they couldn’t knock down perimeter shots as Louisville ended Sunday’s game at 25 percent (5-for-20) from three-point range.

Sophomore Donovan Mitchell paced Louisville with 17 points while Deng Adel had 16 points, including a huge first-half dunk on Wilson that had Banker’s Life Fieldhouse buzzing. Mangok Mathiang tallied 13 points in his final college game for Louisville

Michigan advances to face face the winner of No. 3 seed Oregon and No. 11 seed Rhode Island next week in the Midwest Region. The Wolverines winning also means at least three Sweet 16 teams for the Big Ten as Michigan joins Wisconsin and Purdue in the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend.

No. 7 Michigan outlasts No. 10 Oklahoma State in battle of elite point guards

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The battle of elite points guard lived up to the hype as No. 7 seed Michigan and senior Derrick Walton Jr. outlasted No. 10 seed Oklahoma State and sophomore Jawun Evans for a 92-91 win during a first-round game Friday afternoon in the Midwest Region.

Both guards flirted with triple-doubles in this NCAA Tournament game in Indianapolis, but it was Walton and the Wolverines who continued their stretch of inspired play after a scare during last week involving the team plane. D.J. Wilson made the game-clinching free throws with 3.7 seconds left for Michigan as Evans buried a three-pointer as time expired to make it the one-point difference.

Michigan (25-11) was led by Walton as he finished with 26 points, 11 assists and five rebounds as the Wolverines shot a blistering 55 percent (16-for-29) from three-point range. At one point in the second half, the Wolverines were 11-for-15 in the half from three-point range as their ability to hit the long ball changed the game.

Continuing to look like one of the elite floor leaders in college basketball, Walton was once again matched against a very good counterpart and outplayed that player while getting his team the win. During Michigan’s recent six-game winning streak, Walton is averaging 21 points, 8.6 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game as he’s now become one of the tournament’s dangerous players.

Wilson added 19 points for the Wolverines while Zak Irvin and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman each had 16 points to help form a balanced Michigan attack.

Oklahoma State (20-13) had a solid game from Evans as he totaled 23 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds. Although Evans was close to a triple-double he was only 10-for-26 from the field as he had a tough time getting some shots to fall around the rim. Jeffrey Carroll added 19 points while senior guard Phil Forte III added 12 points in his final college game. Davon Dillard also added 12 points for the Cowboys while Leyton Hammonds added 10 points.

Although Oklahoma State’s offense was once again good enough to keep them in this one, their perimeter defense allowed Michigan a number of easy different looks as the Cowboys lost another close game to a good team with a good offense.

Michigan moves on to face No. 2 seed Louisville in the second round of the Midwest Region on Sunday after the Cardinals ran past No. 15 seed Jacksonville State. The Wolverines have won eight of their last night games overall, including last week’s Big Ten Tournament title.

If Walton continues to play at an elite level and the Wolverines continue to stay motivated then they are going to be a dangerous team if Louisville advances. That could be one of the better second-round matchups in the tournament as Walton will go against some more high-quality guards in Donovan Mitchell and Quentin Snider for the Cardinals.

Michigan caps best story of Championship Week by winning Big Ten Tournament title over Wisconsin

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Michigan finished off the best story of Championship Week by winning the Big Ten Tournament title on Sunday with a 71-56 win over Wisconsin.

After getting in a scary plane crash shortly before take-off earlier this week, the Wolverines drove to the event and picked off Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota and Wisconsin in the last four days.

Beating three of the top four teams in the Big Ten is impressive and the committee is going to have an interesting decision when it comes to seeding Michigan because they are playing very well at the moment.

Senior Derrick Walton Jr. continues to have a tremendous stretch as he led the Wolverines with 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds while D.J. Wilson (17 points) and Zak Irvin (15 points) both finished in double-figures.

If Walton is playing like this then he has a ton of weapons around him and a lot of players who can stretch the floor at multiple positions. John Beilein teams can be tough to prepare for in the NCAA tournament and having to face this red-hot Michigan team is not going to be fun next week.

Wisconsin (25-9) had 15 points from Bronson Koenig while Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ both had 14 points and 11 rebounds each.

After travel trouble, Michigan beats Illini 75-55 in Big Ten

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WASHINGTON (AP) Flying into town only a few hours before tipoff because of travel trouble a day earlier, and wearing yellow practice jerseys instead of the game uniforms that got stuck on their abandoned airplane, Michigan raced to an early double-digit lead and beat Illinois 75-55 to reach the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday.

Derrick Walton scored 19 points for No. 8 seed Michigan (21-11), which meets regular-season conference champion Purdue next.

The Wolverines were stuck wearing the simple, practice tank tops – no players’ names on the back – against ninth-seeded Illinois (18-14) because their proper uniforms, along with everyone’s suitcases, were trapped under the plane that slid off a runway during an aborted takeoff Wednesday, according to Michigan spokesman Kurt Svoboda.

No one was injured, Svoboda said.

Tyler Davis, a team manager, tweeted a brief video of the aftermath.

Players and coaches packed new luggage for the trip, the practice jerseys were retrieved from campus, and Michigan flew – successfully, this time – to the D.C. area on Thursday morning. The team landed at 8:45 a.m., got to the arena at around 10:35 a.m., then were playing basketball less than two hours after that.

And the Wolverines didn’t miss a beat.

Michigan went up by 13 at 22-9 a little more than 8 1/2 minutes in, when Zak Irvin collected an Illinois turnover then fed D.J. Wilson for a two-handed alley-oop slam. That Wolverines pair then leaped into each other, with Wilson knocking down Irvin, who seamlessly transitioned into a push up near midcourt.

Malcolm Hill’s turnaround jumper was the game’s next basket – and his only one of the first half.

Not much later, Michigan’s lead had grown to a whopping 20 points at 31-11, when Irvin made a 3 from the top of the arc.

Over the next 2 1/2 minutes, Illinois finally got into the flow of things, using a 12-0 run – the first 10 all from Tracy Abrams – to make the game competitive. By halftime, Michigan’s lead was 40-29, but it again got the margin back to as many as 20 in the second half.

Irvin finished with 18 points and seven rebounds for Michigan. Illinois got 23 points from Abrams. Hill, the senior guard who leads the Illini in points, rebounds, assists and steals, wound up with four points on 1-of-8 shooting.

BIG PICTURE

Illinois: Likely looking at an NIT bid after failing to produce the kind of impressive Big Ten Tournament run that could have allowed it to sneak into the NCAA field.

Michigan: Came to the Big Ten Tournament figuring this week was about seeding for the NCAAs; knocking off Purdue would surely give the Wolverines a boost in that regard.

UP NEXT

Michigan: Faces No. 1 seed Purdue in Friday’s opening game. The Wolverines already beat the Boilermarkers once this season, 82-70 on Feb. 25.

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

More college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

March Madness 2017: Big Ten Tournament Preview, Bracket and Conference Postseason Awards

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Big Ten Player of the Year: Caleb Swanigan, Purdue

A no-brainer for this award, Swanigan posted a ridiculous 25 double-doubles this season while averaging 18.7 points and 12.7 rebounds per game. Nearly unguardable in the post without a double team at the college level, Swanigan has expanded his offensive game as he hurts defenses from every level of the floor. A 44 percent three-point shooter who also makes 79 percent of his free throws, Swanigan has rare touch for a player his size.

Big Ten Coach of the Year: Richard Pitino, Minnesota

Minnesota looked like they might be in serious trouble entering this season but Pitino has done a remarkable job of helping turn things around while saving his job. After only eight Big Ten wins the last two seasons, the Golden Gophers finished with 11 Big Ten wins this season as they finished in fourth place. Mixing veterans, transfers and true freshmen, Minnesota has a top-15 defense and the future looks solid.

First-Team All-Big Ten:

  • Caleb Swanigan, Purdue (POY)
  • Melo Trimble, Maryland: The Terps lost four starters but Trimble (16.9 ppg, 3.7 apg, 3.4 rpg) was once again one of the nation’s most clutch players. Trimble scored Maryland’s game-winning points five times in the final 30 seconds this season.
  • Ethan Happ, Wisconsin: Happ clearly emerged as Wisconsin’s best player this season, putting up 13.9 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. Defensively, Happ is perhaps the Big Ten’s best player.
  • Peter Jok, Iowa: One of the nation’s best offensive players, Jok scored in bunches (2o.2 ppg) but also improved his all-around game (5.7 rpg, 2.7 apg) while leading the Big Ten in free-throw percentage at 92 percent.
  • Derrick Walton Jr., Michigan: Finally healthy for a full season, Walton was brilliant in his senior season as he gets a slight nod over Nate Mason. Walton had good numbers (14.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.5 apg) and was very efficient (43% FG, 41% 3PT, 85% FT)

Second Team All-Big Ten:

  • Nate Mason, Minnesota
  • Miles Bridges, Michigan State
  • Tai Webster, Nebraska
  • Malcolm Hill, Illinois
  • Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern

RELATED: Player of the Year | Coach of the Year | NBC Sports All-Americans

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The Big Ten Tournament moves east to Washington D.C. for the first time this season as it will be very intriguing to see which fanbases travel to catch this event.

As for the tournament action itself, this has been a strange year for the Big Ten.

Since the committee didn’t give the Big Ten a top-four seed during February’s early bracket reveal, we know that the conference likely has work to do to get even one top-four seed. With the way Purdue has played lately, they have the best chance to win this event and gain a respectable seed, but the Big Ten is going to have to prove itself in March with some pretty undesirable seeds.

The Bracket 

When: March 8-12

Where: Verizon Center, Washington D.C.

Final: Sunday, March 12, 3 p.m. EST

Favorite: Purdue

The Boilermakers are the easy favorite for this event as they won the Big Ten regular season by two full games and enter this week as winners of eight of their last nine games. With the Big Ten’s best player in Caleb Swanigan and a great supporting cast that was built to play around Swanigan’s unique skillset, the Boilers are motivated to earn a better NCAA tournament seed by winning this event. Matt Painter made that clear in the postgame interview following the Northwestern win.

And if they lose?: Wisconsin

Based solely on recent play, Wisconsin has no business being in the title conversation this week. The Badgers had lost five of six games before Sunday’s win over Minnesota as they went into a freefall. But the rest of the Big Ten is still very mediocre and Wisconsin has a veteran group that knows how to win in tournament settings. The win over the Golden Gophers was convincing enough that Wisconsin might have figured things out just in time.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 21: Reggie Lynch #22 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers fouls Ethan Happ #22 of the Wisconsin Badgers while shooting the ball during the second half of the game on January 21, 2017 at Williams Arena in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Ethan Happ (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Other Contenders:

  • Maryland: As long as Melo Trimble is on the floor, you can’t count out Maryland. One of the nation’s elite guards is still great in close games and he has plenty of talent around him.
  • Minnesota: The Big Ten’s biggest surprise has an elite defense anchored by Reggie Lynch, one of the nation’s best shot blockers, and an offense led by breakout guard Nate Mason.

Sleeper: Iowa

The Hawkeyes have quietly crept into the bubble picture by winning four straight — including impressive road wins at Wisconsin and Maryland. The Big Ten Tournament draw also happens to lay out very nicely for Iowa. Potential matchups in the first three rounds come against Indiana, Wisconsin and Maryland — three of the four teams Iowa just beat. With something to play for, a potent star senior scorer in Peter Jok and a favorable draw, Iowa could be a team to watch in D.C.

The Bubble Dwellers:

  • Illinois: A shocking road loss to Rutgers might leave Illinois out either way. A win over Michigan in the first round has to happen at the very least and Illinois might even have to beat No. 1 seed Purdue to get in.
  • Iowa: If Iowa beats Indiana and gets the best of the Badgers again in the quarterfinals then they might be dancing.

Defining moment of the season: The Big Ten didn’t have a lot of great moments this season but Purdue clinching the Big Ten title against rival Indiana on Senior Day was pretty cool.

CBT Prediction: Purdue over Wisconsin