NEW YORK — Air-tight defense? Check.
Swaggering big men who pose matchup nightmares? Check.
Enough depth in the post to smother smaller rosters? Check.
Veteran shooters? Check.
Pit-bull point guard? Check.
March experience? Check.
Foul shooting late? Well …
Michigan's free throw shooting is going to be their downfall. Shooting in the 60s isn't going to cut it.
— Danny (@dannyfight4ever) March 4, 2018
I love this Michigan basketball team, but man the free throw woes are going to catch up with the Wolverines at some point.
— Mitch Blankespoor (@mitch_blanko) March 4, 2018
Michigan through 38 minutes has a chance to make the Final Four.
Michigan in the final 2 minutes may cost them something special. They've got to fix the free throw problem.
— Ryan Cole (@ryan_cole9) March 4, 2018
What a fantastic run for Michigan to win the conference tourney again!!! Is it too greedy to ask for 6 more? Damn this team looks good, well other than the whole free throw thing. Why can’t this team win it all??? There’s no great teams out there! And now we wait 2 weeks.
— Jeff Riger (@riger1984) March 4, 2018
On balance, six outta seven ain’t bad.
Four outta four is even better. Especially when the fourth — win No. 4 in four days — involves de-pantsing Purdue on national television.
Michigan isn’t just the first Big Ten squad to win back-to-back league tourney championship for the first time since Ohio State pulled it off in 2010 and 2011.
The Wolverines are the team built to destroy your bracket. Your buddy’s bracket. Your boss’s bracket.
Nine victories on the bounce. Eight straight wins in Big Ten Tournament games.
This ain’t a Cinderella story anymore.
This is a Final Four team in sheep’s clothing, a giant with teeth, waiting to pounce.
Consider: Purdue came into Madison Square Garden on Sunday with five losses on the résumé, five setbacks by an average of three points. None by more than four.
Until they ran into these guys.
Until they ran into the buzzsaw.
Until they ran into Moe Wagner.
Until they ran into Zavier Simpson.
Until they ran into Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.
Until they ran into Jon Teske.
Wait. Jon who?
— Kelly James (@Death_Letter) March 5, 2018
That’s when you know. When it’s clicking everywhere. The Wolverines’ backup center, Teske (14 points, one rebound), grabbed the spotlight from out of nowhere Sunday, evoking memories of former New York Knicks star Bill Bradley, a big lug slipping free and draining jumpers from the elbow.
Already up 38-33 at the break, the Wolverines (28-7) opened the second period on a 10-4 run; Simpson’s trey with 15:52 left in the contest extended the Michigan lead to 48-37.
— Univ. of Michigan (@UMich) March 4, 2018
Of all of the gems on John Beilein’s résumé, this weekend turned into one of the shiniest. With the exception of a hairy second-round overtime escape vs. No. 12 seed Iowa on Thursday, the Wolverines executed in the Big Apple as if they always knew what was coming — and then immediately had a counter for it.
Michigan didn’t turn the ball over until we were 5 minutes into the second half. The Wolverines’ gave it away a season-low 5 times for the afternoon — its previous low all winter had been 6 turnovers. Thanks to the relentless pestering of Abdur-Rahkman and Simpson, Boilers sharpshooter Carsen Edwards whiffed on 12 of 16 attempts from the floor, his worst shooting night in eight weeks.
Simpson’s teardrop kiss off the glass over Purdue’s army of trees with 13:55 left until the break capped an 11-2 run over a 3-minute stretch that staked the Wolverines to a 16-9 cushion early. Wagner (7 first-half points) and Teske (12 points, 2 boards at the break) drew a line in the paint and lured Purdue’s more ballyhooed post pair of Isaac Haas (11 first-half points) and Matt Haarms (2 first-half points) into a staring contest.
A 3 seed in Bracketville awaits. Maybe a 4, if the fates — and selection committee — are unkind. If anything, given hindsight, Michigan’s trophy on Sunday might’ve somehow been more impressive than the one Beilein and company hoisted in D.C. a year ago. One of the key cogs of the 2017 tourney title-winners, former Wolverines guard Zak Irvin, even popped down to watch this magic carpet ride from the passenger’s seat.
“It felt very weird — especially the first game [of the Big Ten tourney], going into overtime,” said Irvin, who’s now with the New York Knicks’ G League affiliate in Westchester, N.Y. “I wish I could be out there at times. It’s crazy to think that a year ago [this week] we won the Big Ten [Tournament] championship.
“I’m happy for them. They’re one of the hottest teams in the country right now. So, hopefully, they keep rolling.”
Rolling. And rolling. Downhill, smiling, all the way to the confetti. Four wins down. Six to go.