It felt all too familiar; Wisconsin made a second half push and it was looking like another close loss for Michigan. There were 1.8 seconds left, the Wolverines were down 3, and it felt like all hope was lost.
But then Hunter Dickinson did this.
Kinda feels like March is already here. doesn’t it?
The Wolverines played some damn good basketball in overtime, going on a 10-0 run and beating the Wisconsin Badgers, 87-79.
Every game for Michigan is pretty much a must-win to close out the year, especially this one. It’s not a Quad 1 win, but Wisconsin currently has a 62.5% chance to make it to the tournament, according to TeamRankings.com, and the Badgers are projected to be an 11-seed play-in team by ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi.
Combine that with the fact they beat Michigan in Madison, and the Wolverines desperately needed a win on Senior Day.
Here are the takeaways from the win.
Some great basketball in OT
Dickinson’s big shot forced overtime, but the Wolverines played some really good basketball in overtime.
It was truly a team effort in the extra period: Dug McDaniel had eight points in OT, Joey Baker hit a big three, Dickinson finished inside, and Kobe Bufkin hit what is probably the most important and-one of his Michigan career.
Kobe Bufkin strong drive and finish through traffic for Michigan pic.twitter.com/zmCU7r9XNz— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) February 26, 2023
It’s no secret this team has had issues closing games all year long, but they’re putting things together at the right time.
An amazing performance from the young backcourt
“You need experienced guards to win in March.”
It’s a trope we hear every year, and a lot of teams that make it to March Madness have relied on senior guards who have been in a lot of big college basketball games.
It’s not March quite yet but with how well Michigan’s backcourt has played lately, they may just prove that tired old saying wrong.
I mean look at these stats.
Absolutely monster day for Michigan's young backcourt of Dug McDaniel and Kobe Bufkin.— Brendan Quinn (@BFQuinn) February 26, 2023
42 minutes each. A combined 48 points, 16-33 FGs and 11-12 FTs.
Bufkin hit big shot after big shot. The Dickinson shot will get a lot of attention, but the Wolverines wouldn’t have even been in that position without this beautiful pull-up from Bufkin.
Michigan fans won’t want to hear this, but that’s an NBA move right there. He played his butt off in a big game yet again, leading the Wolverines with 28 points to go along with eight rebounds and two assists.
And Dug McDaniel hasn’t looked like a freshman at all lately. He led the team with 18 points against Michigan State and 16 points against Rutgers. He put up 20 against Wisconsin yesterday; he’s learned to play under control, he’s making big shots and has earned the trust to be on the floor in crucial moments.
This is a hell of a young backcourt. If they keep playing like this, Michigan can get into March Madness.
Tarris Reed Jr. is a defensive menace
Michigan got off to its usual lethargic start, with Wisconsin making a lot of shots early. It simply looked like the Wolverines didn’t have a lot of energy on both ends.
Tarris Reed Jr. — for most of Big Ten play at this point — has provided the energy Michigan needs on both ends. He was elite on defense, especially in the first half when he recorded two blocks.
Reed Jr. still has a lot to work on as a player: he doesn’t have much of a jump shot and he needs to knock down free throws more consistently before he can be trusted late in games. But you can’t teach effort — he brings that every game and it shows.
Hunter Dickinson takes over the first half
Once subbed back in the first half, Dickinson brought the same energy to the offensive end that Reed Jr. brought on the defensive end.
He was absolutely dominant in the first half, scoring 12 points and doing whatever he wanted to in the post. After Wisconsin took a 20-16 lead with about eight minutes in the half, Dickinson went on an 8-0 run by himself, scoring with a solid hook shot (0:12 mark on video below) and a NASTY up-and-under move (0:08) that every young big man should try and master. He was a big reason why Michigan closed the half on a 19-7 run.
Dickinson finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. He’ll be remembered for that final shot, but his play in the first half can’t be ignored.
Say what you want about the man and his antics, but not many big men in college basketball can flip the momentum of a game like that.
The only player honored today was Joey Baker, who transferred in from Duke. His Michigan tenure has been up-and-down; he’s been a key bench piece who can get hot from three in a hurry, but was never a great defender this season and could never really finish consistently at the rim. Michigan really needs him for this tournament push, especially with Jett Howard still being out.
Nonetheless, we wish him the best of luck with whatever he decides to do after this season. In addition to Baker, six team managers were honored: Alex Assad, Zach Corsun, Conor Shannon, Devon Wisniewski, Max Wittenberg and Andrew Wolfe.
Michigan finishes out the regular season with two tough road tests against teams that are shoe-ins to make the tournament — Illinois on March 2 before taking on Indiana at Assembly Hall three days later. For its tournament hopes, Michigan has to win at least one of those games, but preferably both.