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Moe Wagner's Fire Burning Bright In NCAA Tournament

By Will Burchfield

DETROIT (CBS DETROIT) - Moe Wagner runs hot, so hot that John Beilein sometimes has to cool him down.

"You've heard him in timeouts. He's really into it, and it's encouraging things he's saying, but sometimes we have to tell him, "Will you just be quiet here and let us go through the play?'" Beilein said with a smile.

It's what makes Wagner who he is, for better or worse, and the sophomore from Germany is intent on staying true to himself.

"That's nothing that I consciously think about, that's just coming out of me, those emotions. You can't really control them in that sense -- when to bring them, when not. You've just got to use it right," Wagner said. "That's just me, that's my nature and I wouldn't change it at all because it's a huge part of my game."

Wagner's fiery personality is part of his contradiction as a player, a strength but also a weakness. Then there's his inconsistency.

"If you go back to my first press conference about him," Beilein recalled, "I said he's going to look like a can't-miss NBA player one minute, and the next minute you're going to say, 'How could Beilein give him a scholarship?'"

But lately, the coach added, "You're seeing more of the first than you are the second."

Wagner's talent shined on Sunday when he poured in 26 points on 11/14 shooting to lift Michigan to a 73-69 win over Louisville in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines will need more of the same when they take on No. 3 seed Oregon on Thursday in the Sweet 16.

If Wagner delivers, it will likely be due to his ability to harness his competitive spirit.

"I'm still in the process of learning how to control my emotions," he said. "I think it's really good sometimes, just having good emotions and being positive, you can help the team with that. At the same time, negative emotions can take (away) energy and can be dangerous to the team chemistry during a game, so I'm still trying to figure out the right balance."

Wagner feels he's "come a long way" in this regard since arriving in Ann Arbor in 2015. His coach would agree.

"I think we have a good enough bond where he calms down quick enough, he understands," said Beilein. "He gets mad at himself a lot, he really gets mad at himself, but then he will carry on to the next play. Those are the things we're always sort of dancing with a little bit, but I don't want to rob him of this energy and this passion."

That's the rub with Wagner. As much as his personality needs to be soothed, so does it need to be released.

"It's what's going to make him a great player," Beilein said earlier this season. "I'd rather have a guy with that edge, a guy with that type of passion and have to dial him back than have to grow the other side and say, 'You're not going to win without enthusiasm.'"

Wagner has something that can't be taught, something that can't be manufactured. His exuberance can take many forms -- like, say, a 26-point performance in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. At this point, with Michigan two wins away from the Final Four, Beilein is done trying to rein Wagner in.

"You just embrace it," he said.

There is nothing artificial about Wagner's personality on the court. There is nothing contrived about the way he rants and raves in the huddle or flexes and fumes after a big play. If he's an actor, it's only in his affinity for the spotlight.

"One of my youth coaches actually used to say that I was somebody who sees the basketball court as a stage. Last year, I started to understand what that actually means and I've kind of embraced that this year," Wagner said. "But that's just me. I really love it, I really enjoy it and I try to use it to my advantage."

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