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Who will be the X factor for Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament?

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The Wolverines have started playing like a complete team lately, but who will be the X factor for them?

Dustin Johnston

It’s almost here, the 2018 Big Ten Championship.

A year ago, the Wolverines were one of the most popular storylines in college basketball, going through an emotional Big Ten Tourney weekend starting with a plane crash, then beating Illinois by 20 points in their practice jerseys, and finally running the table to be crowned 2017 Big Ten champs over Wisconsin.

They followed up with a couple wins in the NCAA Tournament, which included revenge against Louisville before losing to Oregon by one point in the Sweet Sixteen. It was an amazing story and run for the Wolverines.

Fast forward to Feb. 2018 and Michigan (24-7) is again turning it on late in the season, which is something Wolverine fans are getting used to the last several years. The Wolverines recently moved up to No. 15 in the latest AP poll heading into the Big Ten Tournament. They’ve won 12-of-16 games in 2018, including two losses by a combined five points to Purdue. Their biggest win was against No. 4 Michigan State by 10 points in East Lansing, and they ended their home game slate with another top-10 win by 12 points against No. 8 Ohio State.

Improvement and development heading into March is what Coach Beilein is all about.

Now that the regular season is over, it’s clear this team has developed and played some great basketball on both sides. That has become evident lately with improvement in these five categories when comparing the last two months of play with a record of 12 wins and four losses.

Free-throw percentage per game:

Jan: 60.50 percent / Feb: 70.14 percent

Turnovers per game:

Jan: 8.56 / Feb: 7

Total rebounds per game:

Jan: 29.33 / Feb: 31.43

Blocks:

Jan: 3.0 / Feb: 3.71

Turnovers:

Jan: 8.56 / Feb: 7

Who will be the X factor in the Big Ten Tournament?

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve seen the starters, and several off the bench, step up in a big way. The one player that’s been the most consistent all season is senior Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. He’s averaging just over 35 minutes per game and played in all 31 regular season games. After his career-high 28-point performance against Maryland last Saturday, he’s averaging 12.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game.

The Wolverines have several starters with solid stats per game this season.

Moritz Wagner (29 games played/started)

  • 27.8 minutes
  • 14.4 points (15.43 average in last 7 games)
  • 7.2 rebounds
  • 17 blocks (season total)

Zavier Simpson (31 games, 19 starts)

  • 24.5 minutes
  • 6.9 points (10.66 average in last 3 games)
  • 2.1 assists (3.6 average In last 5 games)

Charles Matthews (31 games played/started)

  • 29.3 minutes
  • 13.0 points
  • 5.4 rebounds
  • 2.6 assists
  • 20 blocks (season total)

The bench play has and will continue to be an important piece going forward. We’ve seen several guys contribute with stats that continue to improve in the last couple weeks.

Duncan Robinson (31 games, 19 starts)

  • 25.6 minutes
  • 9.3 points (19 against Penn State on Feb. 21)
  • 2.5 rebounds
  • 1.2 assists
  • 12 blocks (season total, 3 against Penn State on Feb. 21)

Jordan Poole (29 games played)

  • 12.4 minutes (22.33 average over last 3 games)
  • 6.7 points (13.33 average over last 3 games)
  • 6 blocks (season total)

Jon Teske (31 games, 2 starts)

  • 12.4 minutes
  • 3.5 points
  • 3.4 rebounds
  • 16 blocks (season total)

With a barrage of Wolverines getting involved and everyone firing lately on all cylinders, buckle up for what may be a fun ride starting this Thursday.

Who do they see as the X factor for the Big Ten tournament? Sound off and let’s hear your prediction in the comments section and the poll below!

Poll

Who will be Michigan’s X Factor in the Big Ten Tournament?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    Moritz Wagner
    (41 votes)
  • 26%
    Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman
    (92 votes)
  • 11%
    Duncan Robinson
    (40 votes)
  • 11%
    Charles Matthews
    (39 votes)
  • 3%
    Zavier Simpson
    (12 votes)
  • 33%
    Jordan Poole
    (116 votes)
  • 1%
    Other (comments)
    (6 votes)
346 votes total Vote Now