We’ve made it down to #2 on this week’s March Madness count down, and people, I almost subverted expectations just to cause chaos at the end of this list. However, I am not Rian Johnson and decided my ego wasn’t worth the sanctity of this ever-important list.
We all know what #1 is going to be, but I came fairly close to putting the anticipated champion at #2 on this list for two reasons
- To add suspense to #1
- Because Charles Matthews laughing at Nick Ward is probably my favorite basketball moment of the last few years.
The Wolverines have beaten the Spartans three straight times, and none of the games have been particularly competitive. It was this moment, fairly early in the game, where this third win seemed pretty obvious.
I’d also argue that this is the moment everyone should’ve woken up to how scary this Wolverine team is and how confident they are. Matthews, after swatting Ward’s junk into outer space, laughs in the dude’s face for a good full minute. Ward, clearly rattled beyond repair, loses his mind a bit.
But can you blame Matthews for such outward joy in an opponent’s behavior? For Michigan, there is no funnier punch line than Nick Ward in the year of our lord, 2018.
I mean, there’s that time where Moe swatted Ward and then went coast to coast for a slam in a Pro-Am. That was fun.
I see why Nick Ward doesn’t like Mo pic.twitter.com/8yEqXGJJHc— Ant Wright (@ItsAntWright) January 13, 2018
Then there’s the time where Moe broke Ward’s ankles in front of a national TV audience with the game on the line in East Lansing:
January 13th, 2018: Moe Wagner dribbles behind the back, breaking Nick Wards ankles, and lays it in helping Michigan upset the fourth ranked Spartans. pic.twitter.com/hEE0VB22Bk— Michigan Moments (@UofMMoments) January 13, 2018
Amazing, right? Having your career’s most noteworthy moment be that time a 7’0 German broke your ankles in your home gym must stink. Sorry, Nick.
To get serious for a moment, I really do believe that this little altercation had much grander implications than anyone realized at the time. For the last couple months, during this streak, the Wolverines have been playing an exceptionally patient and steady brand of basketball. You can only do that when you’re completely confident in yourselves and your system.
Michigan’s shots have not always fallen during this run, but you rarely see the offense get rushed or players forcing shots. You don’t see them get frustrated and lash out - Wagner aside, but #LetMoeBeMoe. When you trust in your defense to get stops, your system to create open looks, and your shooters to find their stroke again, you’re going to play much smarter basketball. This type of calm confidence allows Michigan to be one of the best teams in the country at both defense and protecting the basketball. These two team strengths have compensated for poor free throw shooting and streaky shooting.
It’s why Michigan can beat anyone - they believe they can beat anyone. They believe they are the best team on the court, every single time. Hey, when you’re riding a win-streak as long as the Wolverines’ current one, all you can really do is sit back, smile, and laugh (at Nick Ward in this case).