Derrick Walton capped his Crisler career with a vintage performance. [Bryan Fuller]
"We're not done yet," said a triumphant Derrick Walton, addressing the Crisler Center crowd after a Senior Day victory over Purdue that all but locked in Michigan to a NCAA tournament bid.
The Wolverines looked the part of a team capable of making a run in March. They scored on their first possession against the current Big Ten leaders, getting a Moe Wagner layup off a Walton assist. Those two would lead the way in a game Michigan never trailed.
The matchup of Wagner and national player of the year candidate Caleb Swanigan took center stage in the first half. The German big man didn't just hold his own: he dominated. Forcing the burlier Swanigan to defend in space, Wagner poured in 22 first-half points, making five of six two-pointers and raining in four of his six three-point attempts. While Swanigan had an efficient nine points in the half, timely Michigan double-teams forced two turnovers, and he couldn't get the defense to collapse—the normally hot-shooting Boilermakers went only 5-for-16 on threes.
"That's just my guy, man," Walton said of Wagner. "I've got an absurd amount of respect for him. We go through [the pick-and-pop] so much in pregame, that's just our little thing. He knows where I'm at. I know where he's at. With a defense like that, I feel it was my priority to get him the ball in space."
Purdue adjusted in the second half, putting Vincent Edwards on Wagner and switching on every screen, but by then it was too late. Duncan Robinson's corner three-pointer sent Michigan into halftime with a 15-point lead, and the Wolverines would push the margin as high as 22 points before a last-gasp Boilermakers comeback made matters uncomfortable for a couple possessions.
Wagner scored 22 of his 24 points in the first half. [Fuller]
Fittingly, the seniors to play a huge role in fending off that comeback. Zak Irvin struggled to score again today, but he made his mark with a big defensive play, chasing down Carsen Edwards to force a fast break miss when Purdue had a chance to cut the lead to single digits. The Boilermakers subsequently got it to a six-point game with 2:14 to play. Walton ended the threat by ducking under Swanigan to hit leaning three-pointer that beat the shot clock and effectively ended the threat.
"I silently thanked God because there was no reason I should've made the shot," Walton said. "It was probably one of the worst possessions we had all game. You just kind of dribble the ball around for six seconds. It's just one of those times. We had a lot going against us this season. It was one of those moments where it was kind of 'okay then, we finally got a good bounce of the ball.'"
"I was actually about to chase it. It was not a good shot."
Walton finished with a very Walton stat line: 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting, 11 rebounds, five assists, no turnovers, and a steal. Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman both finished in double figures on combined 7-for-9 shooting. DJ Wilson added nine points and a critical stint at center in the second half when Mark Donnal proved ineffective. Xavier Simpson got into the act, hitting both his field goals—a transition corner three and an eye-opening layup after driving past Swanigan—and dishing out a pair of assists.
Xavier Simpson gave the fans a taste of what's to come after Walton. [Fuller]
The team was in high spirits in the aftermath. Asked if Irvin cried, Walton couldn't help but laugh, then said loud enough for his fellow senior to hear, "I think he choked up on the mic. He did. I looked at him."
"No I didn't!" Irvin yelled from across the room.
They know there's still more to accomplish, however.
"We already experienced something like this where we've had some success," Walton said, referring to the wins at Madison Square Garden. "We want to show who we really are by consistently bringing the same effort."
"You've just got to spend a film session with me to know that they know they haven't punched any ticket," said John Beilein. "There's a lot of work to do. You don't know what can happen down the stretch here with teams that are trying to get in there."
Northwestern fits that description. Michigan will head to Evanston on Wednesday in the midst of their best stretch of basketball all season. The team we've seen the last few weeks could make quite a bit of noise in March. Today's win made it much more likely they'll get the chance to do so.
I'm not quite sure what happened since my son was just born and I haven't slept in several days and was watching from a janky stream on a laptop in a hospital, so if I just totally hallucinated a German center who goes 4-8 from three while holding Caleb Swanigan to five total rebounds I totally apologize. If not:
And of course, you can't have one without the other.
Derrick Walton has stepped up in the latter half of B1G play [Bryan Fuller]
If you’re looking for Ace’s preview of tomorrow’s contest against Purdue, it’s linked here.
As an addendum to that, here’s how dominant Boilermaker big man and probable All-American Caleb Swanigan is on the glass:
Fortunately Michigan is indifferent to the offensive glass so Swanigan’s dominance in preventing second-chance opportunities isn’t quite as significant; still, he’s a phenomenal rebounder even though he’s not much of an above the rim player. His strength, positioning, and ability to go get the ball (even without a great vertical leap) is impressive to watch.
Swanigan’s player comparisons are pretty insane as well:
Swanigan is a Jared Sullinger who’s 30 pounds lighter, can pass the ball extremely well, and shoots 47% from three. Needless to say, Michigan needs DJ Wilson (and Moritz Wagner, probably) to somehow neutralize him – the Purdue big man is a much more physical player, so staying out of foul trouble is a major key.
Anyways, there are some graphs of Michigan’s scoring and efficiency trends after the JUMP:
#27 Michigan (18-10, 8-7 B1G) vs
#11 Purdue (23-5, 12-3)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||4 pm ET, Saturday|
Purdue -1 (KenPom)
Michigan -1 (Vegas)
PBP: Dave Flemming
Analyst: Dan Dakich
Right: Senior Day has arrived for Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton. [Marc-Gregor Campredon/MGoBlog]
Tomorrow is Senior Day for Zak Irvin, Derrick Walton, Mark Donnal, Sean Lonergan, and Andrew Dakich. For those heading to Crisler, the festivities begin at 3:40 pm, and it'd sure be nice to see seats fill in earlier than usual. Yes, Spike Albrecht will be back in the building, too—as a reserve for Purdue.
Michigan is holding strong as a ten-seed listed in every projected field comprising the Bracket Matrix. Purdue provides the Wolverines with one more shot at a top-25 RPI win, something that may be more critical than expected now that Wisconsin has dropped to 27th, leaving SMU (#18) as M's only win to fit that criteria. (Infuriatingly, Minnesota has risen to #15.)
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||11||PJ Thompson||Jr.||5'10, 185||70||12||132||Not At All|
|Very efficient, low-usage PG. Majority of shots are threes. Strong defender.|
|G||3||Carsen Edwards||Fr.||6'0, 190||59||24||95||No|
|Solid outside shooter, poor finisher. Can be turnover-prone.|
|G||31||Dakota Mathias||Jr.||6'4, 200||76||15||124||Not At All|
|Three-point sniper leads B1G in eFG%. Good assist rate but has turnover issues.|
|F||12||Vincent Edwards||Jr.||6'8, 225||68||21||118||Not At All|
|Does a bit of everything on offense, good defender.|
|F||50||Caleb Swanigan||So.||6'9, 250||79||28||114||Not At All|
|NPOY candidate. Beast in post, three-point range, great rebounder.|
|C||44||Isaac Haas||Jr.||7'2, 290||52||30||108||Very|
|Behemoth. Strong post scorer, rebounder, shot-blocker.|
|G||14||Ryan Cline||So.||6'5, 190||45||12||122||Not At All|
|Just A Shooter™, makes 43% of his threes.|
|G||55||Spike Albrecht||Sr.||6'0, 180||24||11||109||Yes*|
|Still not right after hip stuff. Tiny usage, only 4-for-22 on threes this year.|
*Man, that hurt to type.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
1. Brazen. Ole Miss's problem is that they made it blindingly obvious. People are dumb but they ain't stupid, and when a nobody with one year of college head coaching experience shows up in Oxford and acquires
- the #1 player in the country
- a five-star offensive tackle from Florida, and
- most egregiously, a five-star wide receiver from Chicago
it's just a matter of time before the walls cave in. Nobody in the history of Chicago has ever thought to themselves "Yes! Mississippi! Especially the bit where not having a plantation owner as a mascot is controversial!"
Meanwhile the players in question were barely trying to hide it.
Ole Miss was dumb and stupid and now they're going to be set on fire.
2. There are only two options for Hugh Freeze. Option A, which is by far the more likely, is that he was fully aware of what was going on from the drop and is a brazen liar. The alternative is that he is so impossibly naïve and delusional that he thought his very presence was sufficient to turn around the history of Ole Miss football. The Machiavellian interpretation is kinder, but this is a guy who compared Ole Miss's struggles to Jesus's trials on the cross so it certainly could be the latter.
3. The more pay-for-play scandals that happen the faster this edifice crumbles. If your main interest in the future of college athletics is dismantling amateurism that no longer makes anything resembling sense, the best case scenario here is that Ole Miss goes nuclear on the rest of the SEC and anyone else they have dirt on. This may be in process already:
Ole Miss, per multiple sources, possesses a recording, and has given the SEC a copy, of (Leo) Lewis’ mother asking Ole Miss for money and detailing incentives she received from other programs, including Mississippi State.
The fact that college football players get money and cars and whatnot is an open secret, but "entire SEC and half of ACC caught violating NCAA rules that everyone thinks are dumb" is the kind of thing that might finally bring the sham of amateurism—both its motivations and the NCAA's current ability to enforce it—down.
4. Dumb and stupid, for real. Ole Miss publicly challenged members of the public to provide evidence that they had violated NCAA rules. They had assistant coaches and associate athletic directors involved in direct cash payments to players and recruits. They ruined their credibility with the media by floating a bunch of outright lies that the more credulous people covering the team related uncritically:
Last year before signing day, Ole Miss leaked to several media members that the allegations weren’t serious, mostly not football. https://t.co/EVWyRGcHuj
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) February 23, 2017
(The same point from #2 stands for those who related it: they can either be hopelessly gullible or bought and paid for by their access.)
These days it takes a school standing up and begging to be punished for that to happen. Ole Miss volunteered. It might have been worth it, but don't be surprised when people dance on your corpse even if you got killed for something that should be legal.
5. Almost everyone does it. I have seen group texts between members of a previous Michigan recruiting class discussing the sudden shift of a player they thought they would get to a Southern school. "They bought his mom a house," per those texts. That revelation was followed by a variety of exclamations. Another recruit simply texted "money talks" when asked about his sudden change of heart.
I've talked to a bunch of people close to the program and heard some pretty astounding things, mostly about the dying days of previous regimes. These people were willing to tell me about players nearly getting in fistfights with coaches after the Gator Bowl that ended Rich Rodriguez's tenure. They've also asserted that Michigan recruits are consistently flabbergasted by the amount of money being thrown around to their compatriots, and that was one reason Brady Hoke's no visit policy could not stand: it was costing Michigan commits thousands of dollars.
Again, I don't think it's wrong that players take a life-changing amount of money in exchange for a valued skill that could cease to exist at any time. I don't think it's wrong that boosters gave him that money. The player in question has a shot at the NFL with some value already banked. He made the right choice.
I do think that everyone would be better off if the system was exposed for what it is and we could all be adults about it. Recruits currently have access to an unofficial and constrained pool of secret money that is far less than they would have if the doors were thrown open, and it's long past time to do so.
6. What grinds the ol' gears. You've got pinhead Pete Finebaum ranting in the national media about how Jim Harbaugh is doing something unethical by attempting to hire a decade-long NFL veteran coach because they may or may not get a 2019 quarterback out of it. Finebaum says nothing at all about the rampant under the table payments in the SEC.
You've got sanctimonious ass Hugh Freeze going on about how Jim Harbaugh is making him take time away from his family because Harbaugh wants to run some satellite camps. At the same time Freeze's program is overwhelming any satellite camp advantage that may exist by simply handing people checks.
If you're Harbaugh how do you not fire back?
MAAR been at the lembas bread? [Patrick Barron]
- Rutgers is a bunch of Michael Currys. Wagner offense worked, Michigan took ton of open threes that missed. Free throw misses becoming a thing?
- TV Teddy had a dream where Michigan’s bench was too demonstrative. Big Ten really has to address Valentine. His crew may be worse.
- Don’t drift back onto the bubble.
- Free DJ on the offensive glass?
- Purdue matchups: Swanigan has no answer for “How is Michigan going to keep you from dominating this game?”
- Sam’s segue to Ole Miss. They went too hard too fast: Tunsil, Treadwell, etc., to put them under the microscope—may not be any different than how the rest of the SEC operates (nv). Brian outs the story behind my Stormtrooper cover last year to demonstrate how on the ball Michigan’s compliance department is. NCAA has to make it not be worth it.
- Best M hoops coach ever? Orr had fun/small teams. Frieder had a Romulus rule. Give Coach B that year with McGary or whatever and it’s a slam dunk.
- Old Man Craig remembers the good old days/bad old days. Mo gets a historically bad whistle.
You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.