The Badgers and the Michigan Wolverines won their respective semifinal matchups on Saturday, setting the stage for a clash between the two teams in the championship game on Sunday afternoon. The game will serve as the rubber match of the season series, as both teams won their home games against each other during the regular season. The game will be televised on CBS at 2:00 p.m. CT.
G: Bronson Koenig (14.2 PPG, 2.1 APG)
G: Zak Showalter (8.3 PPG, 2.9 RPG)
F: Nigel Hayes (13.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.8 APG)
F: Vitto Brown (6.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG)
C: Ethan Happ (13.9 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.8 APG)
G: Derrick Walton Jr. (14.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 4.5 APG)
G: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (9.4 PPG, 2.0 APG)
G: Zak Irvin (12.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.9 APG)
F: Moritz Wagner (12.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG)
F: D.J. Wilson (10.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG)
There may be no hotter team in the Big Ten than Michigan right now. The Wolverines have won nine of their last 11, including two wins over Purdue (one during the regular season and one in the Big Ten Tournament) and a win over Wisconsin at home.
Derrick Walton Jr. has been on a tear. The senior guard totaled 29 points, nine assists, and five boards against Minnesota on Saturday. He’s scored in double figures in 17 of the last 18 games for the Wolverines. The only game he didn’t…was against Wisconsin. He scored five points, but totaled eight assists.
Bronson Koenig was clutch in the Badgers’ close win over Michigan at home. Wisconsin looked like they might lose control, but Koenig took over the final four minutes with a beautiful display of outside shooting.
Koenig sat out the game in Ann Arbor with an injury, leading to D’Mitrik Trice’s first start. The offense sputtered badly without Koenig, as the Badgers lost that game.
Walton vs. Koenig will certainly be the matchup to watch as the two are some of the very best among Big Ten point guards.
Michigan has won three games in three days, an impressive feat especially since they had complications getting to Washington D.C. for the tournament. Michigan’s plane had issues and the players didn’t get to D.C. until the morning of their first game.
The Wolverines played in their practice jerseys for the first game as they weren’t able to get their real jerseys off the plane, but after defeating Illinois, Purdue, and Minnesota, Michigan now finds themselves one win away from the Big Ten Championship.
“As bad as it could have turned out, they’ve done a good job,” Nigel Hayes said about Michigan’s situation. “Not that they weren’t already playing well to begin with, but I think it’s just more of a relaxer, on what they went through, and now they can just relax and play.”
This is the Badgers’ third Big Ten Championship berth in the last five years. Wisconsin beat Michigan State in the finals two years ago, a game in which Koenig and Hayes started as sophomores. Hayes had 25 points and Koenig had 18, lifting the Badgers to an overtime win, 80-69. The 2017 squad will need the same heroics from the now seniors.
“I think we kind of missed our first opportunity, and now we just have to take advantage of this one,” Zak Showalter said. “We’re in a great position. I think we kind of focused on this when we knew we were out of contention for the first one, and we immediately became focused on winning a Big Ten (Tournament) Championship.”