Written by InhaleSports Contributor Chateau Mangaroo
On a cool, sunny day in Washington D.C., the University of Michigan Wolverines won the 2017 Big Ten basketball tournament. Their victory may be deemed an upset since the eighth-seeded Wolverines beat three top four seeds but it was never a surprise to the Maize and Blue.
Senior guard Derrick Walton Jr., the Big Ten’s most outstanding player, told his coach they were going to win and that was his goal.
Typically, conference basketball tournaments are filled with drama on the court but the Wolverines endured a harrowing experience before they even set foot in the Verizon Center. On Wednesday, the day before their first conference game against the University of Illinois, the plane carrying not only the Wolverines basketball team, but its cheerleaders, pep band and some members of the coaching staff’s families, skidded off the runway in an attempted takeoff. There were no major injuries but the experience was scary nonetheless.
Head coach John Beilein said, “Everybody is pretty shook up…Everybody’s good. It could have been much worse.”
Though the Wolverines made alternate travel plans, no one was allowed access to their baggage since the accident was now under investigation.
So armed with practice jerseys, shorts and shoes, the Wolverines arrived in Washington D.C. less than two hours before tip-off against the Fighting Illini.
After the preceding 24 hours, it is difficult to imagine the Wolverines would not let their emotions get the best of them, but they didn’t. They won the game in convincing fashion shooting 11-of-14 in the first half and hitting 6-of-7 free throws (.857).
Senior guard/forward Zak Irvin said, “We were excited to get back on the court, get everything back to normal.”
The next day, wearing their game day uniforms, the Wolverines had to face top seed, Purdue University. In an exciting overtime thriller, the Wolverines defeated the Boilermakers 74 to 70.
Next, the Wolverines played number four seed, University of Minnesota. For the first time since the accident, the Wolverines appeared disjointed. Players were blaming each other for botched assignments and bad defense but Coach Beilein rallied his team together for an 84 to 77 win. If it wasn’t apparent to anyone at this point, Michigan came to D.C. to win the tournament just like Walton said.
Following three hard fought games, the Wolverines were now in the final against number two seed, University of Wisconsin.
They did not lose their momentum against the Badgers and won the Big Ten tournament with a score of 71 to 56.
After its whirlwind Big Ten win, next up for the Wolverines is the NCAA basketball tournament. As the number seven seed in the Midwest division, they will face Oklahoma State University.
Of course the Wolverines want to continue winning but to Beilein it’s not just about winning, it’s about teaching and mentorship.
He said, “Winning has never really been the thing that I really coached about…I wanted to be a teacher and a coach…and help be the mentor to people…That’s all I really wanted to do. That’s the real measure. If you get these championships that’s great stuff too but that’s not the measure of our success.”