The 2023 Big Ten Tournament is about to begin, and the Michigan Wolverines’ men’s basketball team is going to need to win a few games, if not more, to make it into the NCAA Tournament.
They may need a magical run to save their season, but they’ve won the Big Ten Tournament before; since the tournament’s inception in 1998, Michigan is one of six schools to win it twice, as it won it in back-to-back years in 2017 and 2018.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane and rank the best conference tournament moments for the Wolverines over the past decade.
(Box scores for these games will be embedded in the years listed in the sub-headings)
Honorable mention: Trey Burke goes off against Penn State (2013)
We all remember Burke’s unforgettable performances in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, and one of his better performances of the season came against Penn State in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament.
He went off for 21 points, dished three assists and recorded three blocks in a 17-point victory over the Nittany Lions. Perhaps this kick-started his magical March run.
Honorable mention: Michigan comes back to beat Maryland (2021)
In their sole victory in the 2021 Big Ten Tournament, the No. 1 Wolverines came back from down double digits in the first half, making 10-of-22 threes to beat Maryland by 13.
Four Wolverines finished in double-figures, with Mike Smith leading with 18 points. Michigan only played three guys off the bench (Chaundee Brown, Brandon Johns Jr., Austin Davis) but they played a big factor in this win, combining to score 23 points and knocking down 9 of their 11 shots.
Honorable mention: Beating Michigan State in the semifinal (2018)
It always feels good to beat the Spartans, but it feels better to defeat them when the stakes are a little bit higher.
At Madison Square Garden, the Wolverines earned an 11-point victory to advance to the conference championship. Five Wolverines scored in double-figures in that win.
Here’s a quick anecdote about one of the more underrated players for the Wolverines in recent memory; going back through all these games, it’s incredible how consistent Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman was in these tournament games.
The sharp-shooting Michigan guard played in 13 Big Ten Tournament games, averaging 12.5 points and 4.84 made field goals per game. Michigan is 11-2 in BTT games he played in, as he played on both teams that won the tourney.
Now, here’s the rest of the list.
(5) D.J. Wilson goes off, the Wolverines take down Purdue (2017)
The 2016-17 conference tournament run is the most memorable in school history for a number of reasons. And on that run to a tournament title, the Wolverines were able to knock off Purdue in the quarterfinal.
Since Purdue was ranked No. 13 in the country and No. 1 in the tournament, this win was huge for Michigan’s tournament resume.
In that victory, D.J. Wilson led the Wolverines with 26 points — his second-highest scoring performance in his Michigan career — to go along with eight rebounds, three blocks and a steal. One of those blocks was on a Carsen Edwards three that would have won the game in the closing seconds.
(4) Derrick Walton goes off against Minnesota in the semifinal (2017)
One of the more memorable individual performances in that run came from Derrick Walton Jr. in the semifinal.
The senior point guard had a career-high 29 points to go along with five rebounds and nine assists to help Michigan advance to the tournament title game.
(3) Michigan beats Purdue in tournament finals (2018)
The Boilermakers have been on the receiving end of some of the best Big Ten Tournament victories for the Wolverines, including a memorable title game in 2018.
Michigan ended up winning, 75-66, completing a conference tournament run that felt like foreshadowing for a U-M that ended up making it to the National Championship game for the second time under John Beilien.
Mo Wagner led the team with 17 points, Abdur-Rahkman poured in 15 and Jon Teske had 14 points off the bench, including some emphatic dunks, one of which being over 7-foot-2 Isaac Haas that felt like the nail in the coffin.
(2) Kameron Chatman’s game-winner (2016)
Entering the quarterfinal against 1-seeded Indiana, the Wolverines were 21-11 and 10-8 in the conference. They really needed a win to secure their NCAA Tournament hopes.
They got a win thanks to a clutch three by Kameron Chatman, a moment remembered well partially thanks to an excellent call by Mike Tirico.
Chatman only played eight minutes in that game, and that was one of his two made field goals. He was mostly a role player in two seasons at Michigan and never averaged more than 3.6 points per game, but he’ll be remembered by Michigan basketball fans forever thanks to this shot.
(1) The practice jersey game and the run that came after (2017)
In terms of what happened on the court, is this the most memorable Big Ten Tournament game for the Wolverines ever? Not really. Michigan won by 20 points and four Wolverines scored in double digits.
What’s most memorable about this game is the fact the Wolverines played in their practice jerseys; they had to because Michigan’s flight never got off the ground due to high winds, and the team’s jersey’s were stuck on that plane.
Thankfully, no one was seriously injured and after that incident, the 8-seeded Wolverines went on a magical run, beating Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota and Wisconsin to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
That run will be remembered forever, and this practice jersey game started it all. Sports are a beautiful thing.