Many looked for Michigan to have a solid season this year and they started off well, sporting a 10-3 record to start the season, including wins against the SMU and Marquette, when they headed into Big 10 play. But when they entered Big 10 play, the steam came out of the hot start by the Wolverines. They would finish the conference season 10-8 and 20-11 overall. No one, at that point, thought they would be a team to reckon with come Big 10 or NCAA Tournament time. But something happened that would change this team going forward. When getting ready to take off and head to the Big 10 Tournament in Washington, DC, the Wolverines had a big issue. There were high winds at the time of takeoff and that caused the plane delivering the team to abort the takeoff. But that was not the end of the troubles for the plane. The plane would eventually be safe, but only after heavy braking under the conditions. The airplane would slide off the runway but despite damages to the plane, there were only minor injuries to people on board the plane. The Wolverines would eventually get to DC, but not at the original time they planned to. They were riding a one=game winning streak going into the Big 10 Tournament, but they were not really playing their best basketball. But something must have happened during that dangerous attempt to fly that transformed the Wolverines. They have won six straight games, beating teams like Purdue and Wisconsin in the Big 10 Tournament and then beating Louisville in the Round of 32 on Sunday. It seems when things get close or tough for them, they become more focused on the task at hand, coming through over and over again.
No one may have been thinking about Michigan to start the season or even ending the season. But as it stands right now, they are one of the hottest teams in the NCAA Tournament and in this wide-open NCAA Tournament, you cannot count them out. The main reason you have to pay attention to them is their senior guards, Derrick Walton Jr. and Zach Irvin. Walton Jr. has had a solid career while at the University of Michigan. He has upped his points per game average every single season, topping out at 15. 5 points per game this season. But over the last six games, Walton Jr. has taken it up a notch. He has not only hit clutch shots and make clutch plays for the Wolverines, but he has also averaged 19.6 points per game and is shooting 41.6% from three-point range. But along with Walton Jr. stepping up his game, so has Irvin. The other senior in the backcourt has, like Walton Jr., upped his average every single year he has been in Ann Arbor and just like Walton Jr., he has stepped up over the last six games. His average has gone up slightly but what has happened with him also is his shooting percentage from three-point range has gone up. Irvin shot 34% for the season from the three-point line during the season. Over the last six games, Irvin has shot 44% from the three-point stripe. With both of these two veteran guards getting it done for Michigan head coach John Beilein and the supporting cast around these vets playing well, the Wolverines are playing as good as they have all season long.
Up next for Michigan is Oregon and like always, the Wolverines will not be picked to win. In fact, they will probably be the team no one picks to come out of the Sweet Sixteen at all. But the odds stacked against the Wolverines is not anything that will bother them. After all, they faced danger in the face and survived. So what are odds stacked against them really? While they may not be the pick to make the Final Four, it would not be surprising to see them do so either.
The General Mike Patton is an up-and-coming writer from Nashville, TN who brings a fresh and non-biased opinion about sports. From his radio experience in Nashville to his time as a sports writer for Free’s World, the website for radio personality and former co-host of BET’s 106 and Park Free (www.freesworld.com), The General is definitely one you want to get to know in the sports world. You can catch his work on SPORTSAWAKENING.COM. Mike grew up rooting for the San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bulls, and Chicago Cubs and remains a passionate sports fan who expresses intelligent opinions.