Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, April 14, 2018
While many Big Ten players already declared their intention to jump to the NBA, Michigan?s Moritz Wagner waited to make a decision. Now, we have a verdict: The star Michigan big man is jumping to the pros and has hired an agent.
It?s difficult to quibble with Wagner?s decision. The 6-11 junior has gotten progressively better each year in Ann Arbor, seeing his scoring average go from 2.9 as a freshman to 12.9 as a sophomore to 14.6 last year in leading the Wolverines to the NCAA title game during an All-Big Ten season. Wagner's stock is probably as high as it's ever gonna be. He has reached his ceiling in college. Time to move on.
Wagner was the centerpiece of John Beilein?s 33-8 team that was famous for its rugged defense. A difficult matchup who could play inside or outside, Wagner brought passion to the court and an infectious style that inspired teammates. Now, this bundle of talent and intensity is gone.
What?s next for Michigan? Earlier, I took a stab at predicting next year?s order of finish in the Big Ten.
Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman were departing as seniors, but Michigan still was my pick with players like Wagner, Charles Matthews, Jordan Poole, Zavier Simpson and Isaiah Livers back. The Wolverines also will be augmented by one of the Big Ten?s best recruiting classes led by Ignas Brazdeikis and Brandon Johns. But, with Wagner gone, perhaps the Wolverines should slide behind Michigan State, which now looks like the 2018-19 favorite.
The Spartans have endured their own attrition, as Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. won?t be back, each declaring for the NBA draft and signing with agents after Michigan State went 30-5 and won the Big Ten regular-season title outright. Nick Ward also is testing the draft waters but should be back. Still, the Spartans will have Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford, among others. Plus, MSU welcomes one of the top recruiting class in the league with players like Marcus Bingham Jr., Gabe Brown and Michigan Mr. Basketball Foster Loyer.
Beware the Spartans next season, but don't count out Michigan.