Entering the 2015 Big Ten Tournament, all of the talk surrounded Illinois and their now record-setting win streak.
But at the end of the tournament, the talk is about the Michigan Wolverines earning an NCAA Tournament berth, taking the Championship Game over Maryland 4-3 on Sunday morning.
Illinois opened the conference tourney with a 3-2 win over Nebraska, extending their winning streak to 27 games, which is a new Big Ten record. But the win streak would end there as 4-seed Maryland took down the Illini on Thursday by a score of 2-1 to send Illinois into the losers bracket.
A 2-0 win against Michigan State would move Illinois into a matchup with 3-seed Michigan. The Wolverines had already won their first two games of the tournament against Indiana and Iowa.
After Michigan took an early 2-0 lead against Illinois on Saturday, the regular season champs scored a single run in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to take a 3-2 lead.
But Michigan would not back down, tallying three runs in the bottom of the sixth, and taking the 5-3 lead.
A couple of Illinois errors and a walk loaded the bases with no out for Michigan. A hit batter would tie the game, and a double play and a single would give the Wolverines the lead for good. The Illini would load the bases in the 8th for one last chance to force another game, but stranded the three runners with a grounder to short.
Maryland and Michigan both went 3-0 in their respective brackets, as the Terps took down Michigan State, Illinois, and Indiana on their way to the championship game against Michigan.
All the Wolverines would need in the championship game was one big inning, scoring four runs in the fourth. Michigan drew four walks in the frame, and combined with two hits, an error, and a wild pitch, plated the only four runs they would score all day.
Maryland made a late comeback attempt, scoring runs in the 8th and 9th innings. Jose Cuas was thrown out at third trying to turn a double into a triple in the 8th, and then they left the bases loaded in the ninth when Brandon Lowe flied out to left.
Michigan winning the conference tournament turns the Big Ten into a three-bid league, as Illinois and Iowa are definitely in the NCAA field. This is the 9th time the Wolverines have won the Big Ten Tournament, and it will be their 22nd NCAA Tournament appearance.
— Ben Fidelman (@bfidelman) May 24, 2015
— Bryan Pall (@BryanPall) May 24, 2015
— Jim Russ (@JimRuss1) May 24, 2015