It was a gift from god. Isaiah Livers heaved a pass to MAAR at mid-court. He took a-couple dribbles and swung the ball over to Poole at the wing. Three seconds left, a heave to the basket, and on to Los Angeles they go.
Despite a second consecutive offensively challeneged game, the 3-seeded Michigan Wolverines were able to overcome that to advance to the West Regional Semi-Finals in Los Angeles next weekend.
Let’s see what we can takeaway from Michigan’s buzzer-beating win.
What We Learned:
1. It’s officially now or never for Wagner and MAAR.
Moe Wagner and Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman owe Jordan Poole a steak dinner. The Michigan starters as a collective group were abysmal offensively for the second straight tournament game, especially Wagner and Abdur-Rahkman.
Wagner ended his night with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the floor. Seven of those 12 came after the break and four came on one sequence when he nailed a three-pointer and got fouled as well. Abdur-Rahkman was noticeably worse. The senior guard finished with 12 points as well, however, he did it on 4-of-15 shooting from the field as well as going 0-for-6 from beyond the arc.
And most of MAAR’s misses were not even close. One of the purest sharp-shooters in the Big Ten failed to connect on multiple wide-open three-point attempts, some of them resulting in an airball.
Michigan can survive with performances like that against a team like Montana. Poole saved them against Houston. With a potential date against North Carolina on deck, the Wolverines will not survive another game without Wagner and Abdur-Rahkman getting back to their offensive rhythm that propelled Michigan in New York City.
2. Michigan can’t afford another slow start.
We saw what happened to Ohio State with their second slow start of the tournament. The Buckeyes fell after beginning the game against Gonzaga trailing 13-0. Michigan struggled to score early as well.
Against Montana, when they fell behind 10-0, there was an excuse. The Wolverines had not played a game in 11 days. There is no excuse for why Michigan missed their first seven shots from the field again. And that was against Houston. A team that failed to go for the jugular when they had the opportunity. Up 64-62 with free-throws, Houston’s Devin Davis could not convert. A second chance was granted to Michigan, one they may not see again if they start this way in a potential matchup with North Carolina.
The Tar Heels have too many offensive weapons. Each of their five starters finished in double-figures against Lipscomb in the First Round. Theo Pinson has scored less than 10 points twice since the start of February. Same with Joel Berry II.
The Wolverines have the defense to hang with the Tar Heels. One that has evolved since Michigan was thrashed in Chapel Hill in the ACC/Big Ten challenge. But can they pair that with their offense. They haven’t yet this tournament. And that goes back to the play of Wagner and Abdur-Rahkman.
Jordan Poole granted Michigan a second chance. Out of the four Big Ten teams in the tournament, they have looked the most out of sync. They would be the last team to expect that from considering how game-after-game they have forced their opponents into their style of basketball.
Now, a matchup with either Texas A&M or North Carolina awaits. On to Los Angeles they go.