In the end it was the winning plays. Michigan thought it had eliminated those mistakes — the same ones that plagued them in frustrating defeats earlier in the season — but they returned in worst of times and ended the season.

The Wolverines got heroic performances out of their senior leaders in the final game of their careers. Derrick Walton had 20 points and 8 assists while Irvin added 19 points.

They made 6 of Michigan’s final 7 shots on the night, willing the Wolverines to a late 68-65 lead. But the last one — a Derrick Walton step-back jumper for the win — was short and the season was over.

Michigan’s offense never seemed to get comfortable against the switching looks of Oregon’s defense. As advertised, Dana Altman shifted between soft presses, zone and man-to-man defense. Michigan willed its way to 1.03 points per possession, but every basket felt like a significant challenge. There were probably 7 or 8 possessions in the game where Michigan just never got into its offense early enough or ended up with a forced contested shot late in the clock. The Wolverines also turned the ball over 7 times in the first half (and once in the second).

The Wolverines were flustered by Jordan Bell’s presence around the rim (It’s crazy to think that about what the Ducks would look like with Chris Boucher — a better shot blocker — next to Bell). He played 32 minutes and blocked two shots but he altered easily a half-dozen more. The Wolverines just weren’t comfortable finishing near the rim — Oregon outscored Michigan 34-16 in the paint — and although they made 52% of their twos, they left some easy ones on the board.

Michigan’s defense held Oregon to 1.05 points per trip and going into the game that probably would have sounded good enough to win. The Ducks made just 44% of their twos, but hit 8 crucial three-pointers on just 17 attempts. The Wolverines contained Brooks (12 points on 13 shots), but Tyler Dorsey made 5-of-7 threes and hit the game-winning shot — he was the difference.

Both teams focused on getting back in transition rather than crashing the glass, but Michigan will only remember one of Oregon’s 6 offensive boards forever: the missed free throw that Jordan Bell secured over DJ Wilson. That putback gave the Ducks life when it felt like Michigan could have put the game away with a rebound and one more basket.

The Wolverines never scored again, the Ducks did. And that was Michigan’s season.

Michigan lost three games — by a combined 8 points with one in overtime — since Derrick Walton stood in front of the media and said that Michigan would turn its season after the home loss to Ohio State. What was supposed to be the day the season died was the day it came alive.

This run was special, but it wasn’t magic. This was a good team that put everything together and played great basketball down the stretch. We’ll dissect the season over the coming days and weeks, but this was a a group that reached a ceiling — a shot away from the Elite Eight — that very few could have imagined in November, January, February, or even early March. A season defined by two seniors, but one that will always be marred with the what-if of Walton’s final shot.

Player Bullets:

  • Derrick Walton: We’ll look back and admire Walton’s run through February and March as any that I can remember by a Michigan player. He put Michigan on his back, then grabbed the luggage, and carried the team to this point. It was bittersweet to see that final shot fall short, but he left it all on the floor one more time. It was an up-and-down journey for the 6-foot-1 point guard who committed to Michigan almost 6 years ago, but he wrote his story and it is one that we’ll remember forever.
  • Zak IrvinIrvin’s late-season charge might not be as memorable as Walton’s, but a month ago it was reasonable to think that Irvin was going to end his career playing the worst basket of his life. Instead he basically shot Michigan back into back-to-back NCAA Tournament games and has been efficient and productive down the stretch. He played what could have been his most impressive and consistent 9-game stretch to close his career. Irvin suited up 141 times in a Michigan uniform and was the constant through the ups and downs, highs and lows, and he ended his career on a deserved high note.
  • Moritz WagnerThere might not be a more important play in any Michigan game than Moritz Wagner’s first layup. If it goes in, he’s off to the races. If he’s flustered by a shot blocker, it might be a long night. Jordan Bell’s length and quickness effected Wagner from the opening jump and he could never get it going. Everything he did on the floor seemed to be tinged with hesitation as if he was always looking for Bell. In the end, Michigan went with DJ Wilson at the five for the final 12 minutes of the game, providing a sour ending to an incredibly promising sophomore season by the German big man.
  • DJ Wilson: Wilson dropped 12 points (on four threes) and 6 rebounds while picking up two steals and two blocks. He did some great things out there and played significantly better pick-and-roll defense than Wagner when he was on the floor at the five. I even thought he did an impressive job guarding Brooks in man-to-man situation. But the two plays that will haunt Wilson all offseason were a missed layup with just over 8 minutes to play and the missed free throw box out. They were fitting given the kind of season that he had, but they are also correctable. If he can eliminate plays like that, it’s tough to even say what’s next for the 6-foot-10 redshirt sophomore.
  • Duncan Robinson: Robinson had two painful in-and-out three-point misses the second half that could have flipped the game. He also tried to get a bit too aggressive looking for his offense inside the arc (1-of-3) and really struggled at times defensively as Oregon looked to isolate him defensively. Part of that wasn’t necessarily his fault as Michigan was hiding Zak Irvin and played Robinson on Brooks, but there will always be games like this where Robinson is a defensive liability.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-RahkmanGoing into the night, I thought this could be a good spot for Abdur-Rahkman to get involved going downhill, but he never got into the game, finishing 1-of-6 from the floor with 3 assists and 3 turnovers. He seemed to be settling for some questionable early threes at times and just couldn’t build any confidence.
  • Xavier SimpsonSimpson has next and his development over the next 6 months is critical to the program’s future. He played some solid minutes in the second half, but still has a long ways to go on both sides of the floor.
  • Champswest

    So sad to see the season end, but it was a great ride that will be remembered for a long time.
    So proud of this team and what they accomplished.

  • Wayman Britt

    Tough loss. UM had lots of opportunity to win. I think they are the better team, but old habits came back. It has been fun watching them the last two months and sure did turn their season around.

    It’s going to be fun discussing what is next for the Wolverines. A lot could happen in April and May with this team.

  • Fab 5 Legends

    Great season! Great run! Great memories! I’m proud of how we ended BigTen season/tournament and NCAA tourny…I really thought we didn’t play our best game…we fell in love the 3, which made easy rebounding for Oregon, since they were not going in…should have tried to take it to the basket more…like we did with Louisville…thought we would go with the same gameplan…did we attempt more the 30- 3PTA….got to get to the free throw line – that’s how we beat Louisville, OklaSt, Wisco, Purdue, Minn…Irvin/Walton went out with good games! Go Blue!

    • Fab 5 Legends

      I think we would have given Kansas a better game…they look unstoppable right now beating BigTen teams 25+…regardless it was fun to watch, BigTen Tourny Champs / Sweet Sixteen…great year considering how we looked in Nov-Jan….amazing turnaround

  • Tony DeMaria

    I think UM is going to be even better next year. It will be tough to lose 2 of our very best players, but I’ve seen enough from Simpson in very small glimpses to think he will be pretty good with more time on the court and giving him the reigns to run the offense. I think MAAR will be a bigger focal point on offense as down the stretch this year he was kind of a glue guy instead of a go to scorer. I really like Matthews and think he is humble and ready to explode, and obviously another year of development from Wilson and Wagner is going to be great for UM. The key of course will be the bench as we didn’t really see anything at all from Teske, Watson and Davis. Will we get anything from Livers or Poole?

    Either way, great season and looking forward to a bright future for Michigan basketball.

    • ChathaM

      I love your enthusiasm, but I don’t see how next year’s team will be better. Guard play will be the obvious key, and replacing the impact of Walton and Irvin will be extremely difficult. It can happen, but there is a lot of hope involved. I agree that X has the potential to be a good player, but I can’t see single digit minutes turning into a solid, 30+ minute point guard in less than a calendar year. Then, freshmen are generally wild cards, so we can only hope that one or two of them can contribute. Matthews is definitely an X factor. I asked the UK fan I was sitting beside in Indy about Matthews, and he basically said that he couldn’t get an impression of him, as he barely played. If he is as strong as advertised by Beilein, then point guard play becomes the only real question mark. But, that’s still a big one.

      • robpollard

        I think the way next year’s team could be better is by being more consistent throughout the year — Walton didn’t become “Derrick Walton, Jr: All-American Point Guard” until the season was half done (the second Illinois game); Irvin took even longer to become consistent (really turning it on about 8 games ago).

        So *if* Wagner and DJ improve at a reasonable level, you’ve got 2 first or second team all-B1G performers in the front court and if Matthews is as athletic and defensively oriented as advertised, and the other young players make reasonable improvements, you have a team that goes 12-6 in conference and thus gets a better seed in the tourney. Obviously, some “and’s” in there, but all of them are reasonable, if not guaranteed. For example, we’re not counting on Austin Davis becoming Biggie Swanigan or even Isaac Haas; he just needs to play 8-12 minutes a games and look like he knows what he is doing on defense/rebounding.

        But yeah…if Xavier Simpson doesn’t make a real leap (certainly possible, as freshman to sophomore is when you expect) and/or gets hurt, this team will be in trouble. Is there any sign there’s a PG grad transfer out there who fits UM and is interested in playing 10-20 minutes a game?

        • ChathaM

          All of that is realistic. I just don’t like that PG is the biggest question mark, so it’s tough for me to get entirely on board with a team improvement. I do have faith that X will be good, but I’m just not sure that’ll happen next year.

    • David Remmler

      I agree that UM could be even better. The front court should be stronger with Wagner and Wilson now elite or near elite from the beginning of next year. And Teske and Davis ready to contribute as second year players. At the wings, you have very talented players in Matthews and Livers coming in. Matthews should be able to contribute early. MAAR is a proven SG/slasher. The biggest question mark is at PG. I’m not as sold on Simpson yet but I do see the same promise you do. He seems to have great passing instincts and defensive ability. Although small, he’s very quick. And Beilein can improve his outside shot. If he plays as well as he has at times, I can see him filling Walton’s shoes decently. We should also hope that Poole and Brooks can contribute early and that Watson can fulfill expectations too.

  • ChathaM

    Well, an incredible in-season turnaround led to a really fun 6 weeks of basketball to watch. It was great to see the team that we watched in the Garden back in November resurface in Feb/March. We’ll never know specifics, but this has to be one of the better in-season coaching performances in the country. Once the season got going, at no point did I feel like a B1G championship was possible, and I also got to the point where I didn’t think that Irvin could turn his season around. There were some games in the middle of the season, when things weren’t going well, that I was frankly afraid to watch. By the end of the season, I couldn’t wait to watch the team play. I’m really happy for Irvin that he contributed in such a big way down the stretch (although I will never understand his air-ball frequency). I’ll never forget Walton leading the team on the court like a pro in several late season games, and I’ll never forget being at the Ok St. and Louisville tourney games; great memories from this season.

    Oregon is a solid team (and they were clearly better with Boucher, as he could score as well as defend), and this game was basically a dead heat. They’re good at making you play ugly, and I think that had more to do with our uneven performance than fatigue or anything like that. A few plays in the game leave me with an empty feeling about the way the season ended. After Bell’s O rebound on the missed FT with just under 2 minutes to play, I had no idea what had happened. I replayed it a few times, and DJ made no effort whatsoever to put a body on him. It was almost as if DJ thought it was a 2-shot situation. In any case, what should have been up 3 with the ball and under 2 minutes left became up 1, and that was a key play in the game. The other single play that really bothers me is DJ not being willing to finish hard on his missed 5 footer in the 2nd half. He has come a long way, and he had some great games this season, but he simply has to make an effort to rebound and finish with authority. I expect that he will get to that point, but those two soft plays cost the team in a big way last night.

    I think that Oregon is a tough team, but I don’t know that they can play with the pace required to stay with Kansas for 40 minutes. Kansas’ pace eventually ran Purdue out of the gym. I don’t think that Oregon is that much more athletic than Purdue, so I don’t like their chances tomorrow.

  • robpollard

    Great job by the two seniors — Walton Jr has been a revelation these last 20 games; it is awesome he not only became the PG we all thought he could/should be, but even exceeded that at times.

    And credit to Irvin — I expressed plenty of disappointment in his play over the past couple of years and it looked, even into late February, like his career would be quite the downer, but he found another couple gears and really played at a quality level the whole month of March. Plus, he always gave a damn, which I appreciate.

    For the rest of the returning team — lots of good play already, but also lots of room to grow. To pick just one example, my inner Bill Walton was activated as I watched DJ (again!) miss a short bunny and I shouted out “Don’t settle! Go to the rim and throw it DOWN, big man!” But I have high hopes for the future.

  • tousicj

    This season had a lot of ups and downs, but at the end of the day I’m incredibly proud of how we competed. I have been too hard on Irvin at times, but the last 10 games of the season he impressed me more than any other player. We didn’t just need Walton to step up, we needed Zak to step back…and he took that reduced role in the offense and became a much better play the last few games.

    I’m excited about next year, but also hesitant. Those two guards carried us through most of the year…and I’m unsure if we’ll be able to recover as nicely. I imagine we’ll see a lineup similar to this:

    MAAR, X, Robinson/Matthews, DJ and Wagner

    While we may not be better, I do think there will be a lot more depth on the roster than this year. Congratulations to Walton, Zak, and Donnal on fantastic finishes to fantastic careers. Look forward to seeing y’all at the games in years to come.

  • A2MIKE

    Hard loss to swallow, because as many have said, the team didn’t play their best and some critical mental lapses cost the game. I though Oregon played their best game of the tournament, so credit to them. I would have loved an opportunity to play Kansas.

  • Cliff Pappe

    That was a tough game. Shooting for both teams looked bad, but Michigan was able to do what was needed to stay in the game. I can live with Walton taking that last shot.
    There were some missed opportunities, lay-ups, rushed 3’s, not blocking out.
    Overall, like most Michigan fans, I thought we were headed down the tubes in January, only to see the team step up and turn things around. Another successful season for Michigan Basketball!!

  • itsjustaherb

    Michigan lost because Oregon got easier baskets. It really is as simple as that. Both teams didn’t shoot the ball well, but Oregon attacked the basket, drew fouls, and had better scoring chances because of it. I understand that Michigan is reliant on the three point shot. It is a huge part of their offense. However, they settled for way too many threes and just never really looked like the Michigan team we have seen down the stretch.

    I don’t want to hear the inaccurate analysis that Jordan Bell was the reason why Michigan wasn’t attacking and was altering shots at the rim. Michigan never even challenged him!! Rhode Island consistently drove the ball against Oregon and got layups and never felt out of sorts because of Jordan Bell.

    I said it before the game started that Michigan needed to attack Oregon. They didn’t do that at all and had many poor possessions in the 2nd half where they just launched from deep and yet still had two chances at the end to win it. I wasn’t expected them to get by Louisville and this was one hell of a season from this group but I got to think they would have been in much better shape if they would had a different mindset on offense.

  • ChathaM

    I guess I’d rather lose on a missed shot from a good spot by our best guy than on an awkward buzzer beating 3. I feel badly for those Wisconsin guys.

    • JMD

      Agreed on the first sentence. It’s bad enough getting knocked out, but to lose in OT like that is rough. I don’t feel bad for Wisconsin though.

      • bobohle

        How Many games has Wisc won just like that? It comes back around.

        • Steve2081

          Gasser and Brust were more than enough to earn them this.

      • MattBuckets

        Well if Oregon ends up beating Kansas tonight (up 5 with a minute left in 1st half) , our loss to Oregon is gonna sting a little more. We’re all gonna wonder what could have been.

        • ChathaM

          I don’t think a potential Michigan-Kansas game would have looked anything like Oregon-Kansas. Oregon’s zone looks are all about forcing the offence to think, hesitate, then score from the perimeter. I don’t see any way we’d have been able to keep the Kansas guys in front of us with our man-to-man defence, and if we’d have gone zone, well, you know how that would have looked. They’d have been in the lane all night, and at least one of our guards would have been in foul trouble. DJ is a potential shot blocker who could have helped defend the lane, but he is not willing to consistently play at the level of Jordan Bell. I saw Kansas as a very bad matchup for us on the defensive end. I think we would have been able to consistently get shots against them, but their rebounding issues would likely not have been exploited by us. I’m not saying we’d have definitely lost to Kansas; just that we’d have been a far better matchup for them than Oregon was.

          • MattBuckets

            Regardless of the matchup issues, it shows that they are not invincible. We would of had a good shot to beat them. It’s not like Oregon just barely won, 14 pts is a wide margin.

  • bobohle

    Oregon stifled the Kansas offense pretty much like the Michigan game with Bell blocking a ton of shots. This again shows the importance of closing the deal signing Mo Bamba to a scholarship for Michigan or we will have to depend on DJ Wilson who has the athleticism to get stronger inside.

    • Wayman Britt

      I know Bamba is not looking at Kansas, but if you were a 5 star recruit why in the world would you play for Bill Self? (Unless you were getting $) Bill Self is terrible at game strategy, X and O and motivation. He is 2 -7 in Elite eight games. Could you imagine what Beilein would do if he got just half the All American’s Self gets.

  • Chris De Sana

    Was not able to watch the game so looking to find a replay online, suggestions or links?

  • Fab 5 Legends
    • JMD

      He says Donnal will be around to provide depth. That’s not right, is it? I think Donnal is done.

      He also doesn’t mention anything about Wilson or Wagner going pro. I’m hoping both will be back, and I think both should come back, but sometimes these draft decisions surprise me.

      • rlcBlue

        Donnal still has a year of eligibility, but it seems almost certain he won’t be offered a scholarship at Michigan.

        The kicker, of course, is the uncertainty about Wilson and Wagner returning. If either of them were to leave, then having Donnal around would look different. We saw in 2015 how grim a season can get when there are no experienced bigs on the roster. It seems unlikely that Donnal will postpone his decision until after Mo and D.J. finalize theirs, though.