SAN ANTONIO -- Bill Raftery was shaken, though not stirred.
Late in Saturday's national semifinal, Raftery was the unwitting victim of a 6-foot-11, 245-pound flailing package of elbows and knees named Moritz Wagner. While chasing a loose ball Wagner not only leapt off the floor rather awkwardly near the TBS/CBS analyst but knocked Raftery's glasses off his face. For good measure, Wagner stepped on them, twisting the specs into a ghastly shape.
"I'm sending the bill to Berlin," Raftery cracked.
Michigan's German center being runaway freight train to begin with and the Final Four floor built 3 feet above the ground, well, a collision was inevitable. Perhaps the same was true of Wagner having an NCAA Tournament breakout game, even on this grand stage.
Wagner, a junior who could jump to the NBA this year, was the difference in getting the Wolverines to the national championship game for the first time in five years. With 24 points and 15 rebounds, Wagner became the third player to have at least 20 points and 15 rebounds in a national semifinal, according to ESPN Stats and Info. The other players on that list – Hakeem Olajuwon and Larry Bird.
"Relax," Wagner said as a general "Oooooo" went up from the impressed media during the postgame press conference.
"When you put it like that obviously it's pretty cool."
It was more than cool. The product of Berlin has been a lightning rod for a large part of his three seasons because he is somewhat ungainly. He has been called a villain -- the guy you love to hate in the Big Ten.
Wagner plays with an enthusiasm that drips off that big frame. He jacks up the crowd by raising his arms. Sticks out his tongue. Trash talks with opponents. You know, Modern College Basketball Player.
"The whole 'villain' thing you guys love to talk about it, write about, at the end of the day, it's still basketball," teammate Charles Matthews said.
Relax, in other words.
But Wagner never seemed to do that Saturday night. With three minutes left in the first half he had a double-double, probably holding the Wolverines in the game. They were down by 10 twice early in the second half before chipping away.
And then it became a case of Wagner taking over.
Loyola led 47-44 with 7 1/2 minutes left coming out of a timeout. Wagner then scored 11 of Michigan's final 25 points.
He also put to bed Loyola's fairy tale story. There are different versions of the story of Cinderella. The origins are traced back to Greek culture in 7 B.C. But the modern-day version was written by the Grimm Brothers … in Germany.
"I was never a big fairy tale guy to be honest," Wagner said. "I always got scared of fairy tales when I was little. I didn't believe in Cinderella."
Not to say Loyola-Chicago could never recruit a player like the Wagner. But it would be difficult.
Wagner is a Big Ten-type player: brawny, long-limbed. That is mentioned with the utmost respect. But Saturday showed why Michigan coach John Beilein -- who spent most of his career at programs more like Loyola-Chicago (or smaller) -- can and will recruit players like Wagner.
He was the difference because, in crunch time, Wagner demanded the ball. In crunch time, he was all elbows and knees getting his hands on balls, deflecting passes and rallying his team after what had been a rather flat tournament.
In four previous tournament games, Wagner had averaged only 12.5 points and 5.5 rebounds. Previous to that, he was the most outstanding player of the Big Ten tournament.
Turns out Sister Jean needed more than divine intervention for her team to advance. The Ramblers lacked an inside presence beyond the game-but-ultimately-outplayed 6-9 Cameron Krutwig (17 points, six rebounds).
Somewhere back in Berlin they were celebrating. Wagner grew up there watching college basketball games with his father. Next thing he knows, Beilein is standing in his living room on a recruiting mission.
"That was obviously pretty cool for me," Wagner said. "I watched this my entire childhood, this Final Four here. It's kind of crazy, now we're in it together. I had no idea back then."
Just don't ask him about Cinderellas.
"I know those [stories]," he said. "But not tonight."