NEW YORK — If you’re looking at this year’s Michigan Wolverines roster in search of a Chris Webber, Glen Rice, Roy Tarpley or Cazzie Russell, you’re not going to find him. But you will find a team that plays great defense, with role players that excel in executing as a cohesive unit.
And one of those role players, 6-foot-4 senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, is a name that’s not mentioned often by the national media. But it could be one that becomes familiar during March Madness.
Michigan’s Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman gets up and knocks down a thunderous dunk against Illinois in the second half.
When Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was asked what set this year’s Wolverines apart from other Michigan squads he’s faced after Saturday afternoon’s 75-64 loss in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, he said, “I think they’re a little tougher, personally. I think [Charles] Matthews is a great athlete that prides himself on guarding. And [Zavier] Simpson 100 percent prides himself on his defense. So you’ve got two pretty good defenders in places where — that I think is important.”
“I think the young freshman, [Isaiah] Livers, I thought does a pretty good job defending. I think they’ve got a couple of players that are better defensive players. And maybe, I don’t know, him, their staff still figured out at the end of the day you do gotta check people well to win.”
“And as evident by our second half. I mean, they shoot 66 percent. I thought we did. I bet you the last 16 minutes of the first half we probably held them in the 20s. And we kind of disappeared from that in the
“So I think his team is a better defensive team. Some of it is players and I don’t know if some of it is coaching staff and what they did. But I think they are better defensively.”
But no matter how good you are on defense, if you can’t get someone to step up and get buckets, your stay in the NCAA Tournament is bound to be brief. That’s where Abdur-Rahkman comes in.
Muhammad is definitely in his bag, teammate Jordan Poole said as the regular season ended and Michigan began preparing for postseason play.
In Michigan’s regular season finale on the road against Maryland, Abdur-Rahkman scored a career-high 28 points to go along with eight rebounds and seven assists in the Wolverines’ 85-61 win.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored 22 of his career-high 28 points in the decisive first half, and Michigan easily defeated Maryland 85-61 Saturday for its fifth straight victory.
I used to live in D.C. so anytime I come back here and play here I always try to play well,” Abdur-Rahkman said about beating the Terps in College Park. “Friends come up and come see me and I just want to play well, especially it being the last game of the regular season.
His previous career high of 26 points was set in the loss at Purdue on January 25th.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman is this guy that as the year went on, we began to realize as a staff that he could do so much more than we were allowing him to do,” Michigan head coach Jim Beilein said after the Maryland win. He is not disappointing us.
Abdur-Rahkman opened up the Big Ten Tourney with nine points in only 22 minutes in UM’s 77-71 overtime win against Iowa on Thursday. But he shot 57% from the field while also grabbing five rebounds and swiping two steals before fouling out. On Friday, in their 77-58 blowout over Nebraska, he scored 21 points while converting 53% of his field goal attempts.
In Saturday’s 75-64 win over the No.2 ranked Spartans, which ended MSU’s 13-game winning streak and propelled the Wolverines back into the conference tournament final, Abdur-Rahkman led a balanced scoring effort with 15 points.
Moe Wagner scored 14 of his 15 points after a dreadful first half and fifth-seeded Michigan moved in for a 75-64 victory over top-seeded Michigan State in the conference semifinals Saturday.
Zavier Simpson and Mo Wagner also had 15 for the No. 15 Wolverines (27-7), who were also the last team to beat Michigan State (29-4) when they did it on January 13th.
If Michigan plans to make a run in this year’s NCAA Tournament, without the star power that they’re traditionally known for, they’ll have to depend on that great defense that Izzo mentioned in his somber postgame press conference.
They’ll also need an unsung hero to get some buckets. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman could be the guy that fits the bill.