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Michigan’s Moritz Wagner Is Now a Household Name

The dexterous German destroyed Louisville as the Wolverines’ streak continues

(AP Photos)
(AP Photos)

I have to hand it to MLive author Brendan F. Quinn for the most stunningly detailed accurate prediction I have read in some time. This was from late February:

Quinn ended up being wrong about the opponent, but only by a few miles. Michigan knocked off second-seeded Louisville 73–69 in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday thanks to a career-high 26 points from Wagner. In the Purdue game Quinn mentioned, Wagner posted 22 points in the first half against Purdue’s excellent front line of Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas. Sunday, the Michigan sophomore had 17 in the second half, rallying the Wolverines back from an eight-point halftime deficit.

Wagner is one of college basketball’s most intriguing cases. He’s 6-foot-11, dexterous, agile, and can shoot. Last year, he didn’t show much, just averaging 2.9 points per game. He was raw, like you’d expect a rapidly growing German teenager to be.

But there are few coaches better at molding a bag of offensive wonder than Michigan’s John Beilein, and he has taken a full grasp of Wagner’s talents. His scoring average bloomed to 12.2 points per game, with occasional outbursts like the one he had today.

Wagner was essentially unstoppable, finishing 11-for-14. Look at how many different defenders attempt to guard him in this highlight package:

And he finds a way to defeat all of them. He uses his power to bully over guard Donovan Mitchell. He put his back against forward Deng Adel and spins to the basket (twice!). He realizes he’s iso’d against forward Jaylen Johnson and uses his speed to dart to the bucket. He drills a 3 over center Anas Mahmoud, and when center Mangok Mathiang reacts to that by attempting to guard him near the 3-point arc, Wagner pump-fakes and drives to the hoop.

The best part of each play is the instant after he gets the ball. He’s like a video game character that has more weapons than any person could conceivably hold in real life — he needs a second to go to the weapons interface, pick which gun or melee item is best for this specific attack, and then he goes to work.

It seems like nothing can go wrong for Michigan right now. Well, the Wolverines had one thing go really, really wrong — their plane slid off the runway last Tuesday en route to the Big Ten Tournament — and since then they’re 6–0, swinging from near the bubble to the Sweet 16. Against Oklahoma State, they simply couldn’t miss, outgunning the most efficient offense in college basketball. Sunday’s opera was called Carderdammerung: The Twilight of the Cards.

Perhaps someone will stop Michigan at some point. Or maybe they’ll be like Wagner, finding a new tool to defeat whatever obstacle gets plopped in their way.