Michigan's last outright Big Ten title came in 1986. For historical context, at that time I was a few months past my first birthday. Every player on Michigan's roster was years away from being born — yes, even Jordan Morgan.
Plenty of ink has been spilled between then and now to put this in context. Michigan won a share of the title two years ago, just missed grabbing a piece last season and made up for that by adding a Final Four banner to the rafters. The last few seasons have been a steady flow of Michigan breaking down barriers to show that it is "back". There isn't any doubt now.
(I'll spare you all the misty-eyed column on this championship for now. It is coming shortly. I've waited too long not to write it).
But even before tonight's tip-off, Michigan still had plenty of season left. Two games, in fact, in which Michigan had an opportunity to close out this regular season title. Michigan only needed one.
It started fast. Michigan came out firing and Illinois' tight defense only seemed to open up extra passes to open Michigan players on the perimeter. Given the wealth of open looks, Michigan slammed the door on Illinois early. The Wolverines finished the game 16-23 from behind the arc. On those 48 points alone Michigan could have kept the game competitive.
There may be more climactic ways to wrap up an outright Big Ten title, but for my money, getting a second half victory lap in the second-to-last conference game is a pretty satisfying way to lock it up. Especially for a Michigan team that was expected to be on the outside looking in on the conference title race when the conference season started.
Michigan gets one more regular season game — this time against Indiana, the only Big Ten team Michigan has yet to beat this season. Just one more bit of unfinished business before tournament time.