On Sunday afternoon, the Michigan Wolverines went on the road to Madison for the team’s lone (scheduled) matchup against the Wisconsin Badgers this season. While Michigan was favored heading into the matchup, KenPom only had the Wolverines winning by two in what was projected to be a very tight contest.
Early on, however, that wasn’t the case. Michigan came out firing and quickly jumped out to a substantial lead early on in the game. By halftime, Michigan took a dominating 44-22 lead into the break. While Wisconsin did close things up in the second half, it never could make things close enough and Michigan won by a final score of 83-72.
Let's see what we learned from the game.
What We Learned
1. Moritz Wagner really showed up for the Wolverines.
While Michigan hasn’t always gotten consistent production out of Moritz Wagner this season, when he does show up, it’s massive for the team’s chances. His dynamic and diverse skillset makes him a huge difference maker at the collegiate level.
And, boy, did he show up on Sunday.
By the final buzzer, Wagner had 20 points, 11 rebounds, and two assists and shot three-for-six from three-point range. Wagner wasn’t particularly impressive on the defensive end of the floor, but his ability to create offensively was vital in Michigan getting out to its sizable lead in the first half.
Michigan can win without Wagner playing on that next level, but the Wolverines need the German to play at his full potential, if the team is going to make noise in March.
2. Don’t underestimate the importance of this win for Michigan.
Look, we all know that Wisconsin isn’t have a banner year for itself. The Badgers have a losing record and have a poor advanced stats profile. As such, beating a team like Wisconsin, even on the road, won’t do all that much for NCAA Tournament seeding.
However, winning games like this is still immensely important. This is especially true for a team like Michigan that has struggled on the road this season. A win like this isn’t going to suddenly thrust Michigan into an elite seed on Selection Sunday, but it could very well be the difference between a really tough and manageable first round matchup.
Michigan also now enters a relatively manageable closing slate with Iowa and Ohio State at home next week and Penn State and Maryland on the road the following week. The Wolverines have a great opportunity to build a really nice resume in the next two weeks.
3. Wisconsin is still a tough out, even in a down year.
As mentioned above, we all know this is a down year for the Badgers. The team isn’t anywhere near the NCAA Tournament and would likely need a monster run to close the season and in the Big Ten Tournament to even have an NIT shot. Things just really haven’t gone well from the start.
Nonetheless, Wisconsin remains a tough out for opponents. Even after getting down massively early on against Michigan on Sunday afternoon, Wisconsin continued to battle back and was actually able to cut the deficit to as little as seven points late. Teams with low character aren’t going to be able to do that against a ranked opponent.
Whether Wisconsin can get back on track next season remains to be seen, but if the Badgers play like the team did on Sunday going forward, fans should remain hopeful.
4. Brad Davison quietly had a good afternoon for the Badgers.
There’s little debating that the best player on either side on Sunday was Ethan Happ, who finished with 29 points and seven rebounds. However, another Badger that quietly had a really nice performance was true freshman guard Brad Davison.
Davison ended up finishing with 10 points and one assist and had a few nice moments in the second half for the Badgers. This was the fourth-straight game where Davison has scored at least 10 points for Wisconsin. A trend that Badger fans certainly have enjoyed.
Another player who had a nice performance was Brevin Pritzl. He finished with 13 points on 4-for-7 shooting on the afternoon. Pritzl is just another piece of what could be a relatively deep backcourt group for Wisconsin next season.
Michigan controlled this one from start to finish, but Wisconsin made things more interesting than Wolverine fans would have liked in the second half. Ultimately, Michigan grabbed a solid road win to help build its NCAA Tournament resume.
This week, Michigan will move on to face Iowa at home on Valentine’s Day. Meanwhile, Wisconsin will host Purdue at home on Thursday.