Look at it.
No, just look. In the image above, there is no whistle. There is just Trey Burke, consensus national player of the year, making another magnificent, awe-inspiring play—and in a season when he's done that time and again, I don't recall #3 blocking a shot quite like that. Stripped of the context of the game, it's simply 60 more frames of Burke's greatness.
We all witnessed a basketball classic last night, no "college" qualifier necessary. Michigan and Louisville put on a showcase of everything that is great about the sport—no two other teams in the country could've combined, on that stage, to showcase such a sublime combination of talent, skill, coaching, and the free-flowing style that makes for the most entertaining of games.
The exception was the officiating, and it's not like the Wolverines bore the brunt of that incompetence alone. Louisville's run to close out the first half could've swung the game even more had the refs not whistled phantom fouls on, if memory serves, both Peyton Siva and Russ Smith as they were in the midst of picking Wolverines clean and heading the other way for a layup. Look closely enough and you'll never fail to find points left on the table.
I watched the game last night at my apartment, with my brother and roommate, just as I had the first five games of the tourney—same people, same seats. After the final buzzer, we sat in silence for a few moments, collecting our scattered feelings. My roommate, normally the one who lets his emotions get the best of him, was the first to break the silence. Let's have a drink, go outside, get some air.
We stood on the back patio, and over a backdrop of hovering helicopters and wailing sirens we talked about the game, this team, the tourney run. The specifics of the conversation are lost to a long night and a few beverages, but I remember the smiles that crept over all of our faces as we recounted our favorite moments from an unforgettable season. Back inside, we flipped on a rerun of Arrested Development on the DVR, laughing with the Bluths like it was any other April night.
Today, I woke up a little late, and yes, with a little bit of a headache. This was what I saw when I turned on my laptop:
Michigan may have lost, but Spike Albrecht is still doing his thing, and I'm not one to count him out these days. After all, he was the Most Eligible Bachelor even before he had one of the most unlikely performances in championship history.
It's always disappointing when your team comes up just short, not because you're disappointed in them, but for them; there's no coach more deserving of a title than John Beilein, no player who's earned a crowning achievement more than Burke, and for a moment after the game I ached for them. But someone always has to ache, and who's to say who's more deserving? You know Kevin Ware; now read about Luke Hancock having the game of his life while his ailing father watched from the stands, or the incredible story of a 13-year-old Peyton Siva talking his father out of suicide, and there's no anger to be felt as Louisville celebrates. They have lives and stories just like our guys, we're just not as familiar with them.
And today, Spike Albrecht—Spike Albrecht!—is the talk of the nation, as is Burke's incredible block and that game, man, that game. Regardless of departures, and there will be departures, this program is in better shape than it was 24 hours ago. The whole country knows what we've known this whole year about Michigan basketball: they've arrived, they aren't going anywhere, and they're damn fun to watch. For 14 minutes, Spike Albrecht made everyone forget about Trey Burke, and we're not even sure he's going to start next year.
Look at it, one more time. It's still beautiful, and forever will be.
4/9/2013 – Us 1, Bottle Of Whiskey 0, season over
I'm not posting that photo to complain. It's symbolic: it didn't work out, but it was still awesome. (Dustin Johnston/UMHoops)
I'm not going to have too much to say today since at the time I'm writing this it's 5AM and at least ten hours tomorrow are slated for the road. I could have ensconced myself in my hotel room and pounded some things out but instead I did two things I'm glad I did.
One was wait around the team hotel until the guys got back and participated in the applause they got. We made the mistake of thinking things were over and only caught the tail end of John Beilein participating in a chorus of The Victors. I just looked at this guy, this chemistry teacher who'd overthrown his defense and offense and coaching staff—his whole self—and made it work without losing his essential Beilein-ness, and internally crumpled.
What can you say or think about him? I can't get a grip on it yet. I do know I was profoundly grateful this guy I would make a slight underdog against a shitzu in a hardness competition was Michigan's head basketball coach. I only wish I could have clapped hard enough to make any one of the players seem less miserable.
The second thing was hang around the roof of our hotel's parking structure drinking until about the time I started writing this. I was surprised to find out it was so late; infinitely more surprised to realize I hadn't even thought about the reflex action of checking my phone for hours. This weekend has provided a link to friends scattered about the US and drawn me closer to them—always an issue with me.
It sucks they lost, of course, but mainly I just think about how goddamn awesome the last three weeks were. Michigan took down VCU, Kansas, Florida, and Syracuse and played one of the all-time classic finals. It didn't work out; I could talk to you about rebounding and refereeing but I mean seriously that's beside the point. So beside the point. Tomorrow or the day after I will take those items on. At the moment, I'm all about whichever side of the brain is all about verbs and unicorns.
This team was awesome and the worst thing about all of this is now it's over, and that was going to happen anyway. We just talked, on the roof, about my world-spanning naiveté when I was a freshman in '97 and thought I should wait for a senior-year Rose Bowl. I 'm old enough now to have few illusions about how common a thing like this is. Boeheim's been to four Final Fours in 37 years. Massive all-encompassing basketball power Louisville last won in 1986. A thing like this does not come along often, and six points short pales in comparison to four people cementing themselves to each other on a cool Atlanta morning.
Go Blue. Thank you, 2012-13 Michigan Wolverines.
As night descends, so we reach the final act.
Liveblog Chaos Mitigation Post. O heavy lightness, serious vanity, prevent the misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms.
From the Sponsor. There are a few defining moments which truly capture what it means to be a Michigan Wolverine. Michigan Basketball, thank you for creating those moments for us this season. Bring us home the championship! Go Blue! --Shashi Mara
About the sponsor: Marawatch creates officially licensed Swiss timepieces for the University of Michigan (pictured above: The Gamechanger).
How did we get here? Enter Hamlet.
To be, or not to be: that is the question.
11/9: Michigan 100, Slippery Rock 62. 1-0
11/12: Michigan 91, IUPUI 54. 2-0
11/13: Michigan 77, Cleveland St 47. 3-0
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
11/21: Michigan 67, Pitt 62. 4-0
11/23: Michigan 71, K-State 57. 5-0
11/27: Michigan 79, NC State 72. 6-0
12/1: Michigan 74, Bradley 66. 7-0
12/4: Michigan 73, WMU 41. 8-0
12/8: Michigan 80, Arkansas 67. 9-0
12/11: Michigan 67, Binghamton 39. 10-0
12/15: Michigan 81, West Virginia 66. 11-0
12/20: Michigan 93, EMU 54. 12-0
12/29: Michigan 88, CMU 73. 13-0
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.
1/3: Michigan 94, Northwestern 66. 14-0, 1-0
1/6: Michigan 95, Iowa 67. 15-0, 2-0
1/9: Michigan 62, Nebraska 47. 16-0, 3-0
To die; to sleep; no more;
1/13: Ohio State 56, Michigan 53. 16-1, 3-1
And by a sleep to say we end the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.
1/17: Michigan 83, Minnesota 75. 17-1, 4-1
1/24: Michigan 68, Purdue 53. 18-1, 5-1
1/27: Michigan 74, Illinois 60. 19-1, 6-1
1/30: Michigan 68, Northwestern 46. 20-1, 7-1
’Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. To die. To sleep; To sleep? Perchance to dream! Ay, there’s the rub.
2/2: Indiana 81, Michigan 73. 20-2, 7-2
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause.
2/5: Michigan 76, Ohio State 74 (OT). 21-2, 8-2
There’s the respect that makes calamity of so long life. For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, the oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely, the pangs of disprized love, the law’s delay,
2/9: Wisconsin 65, Michigan 62 (OT). 21-3, 8-3
2/12: Michigan State 75, Michigan 52. 21-4, 8-4
2/17: Michigan 79, Penn State 71. 22-4, 9-4
2/24: Michigan 71, Illinois 58. 23-4, 10-4
2/27: Penn State 84, Michigan 78. 23-5, 10-5
The insolence of office and the spurns, that patient merit of the unworthy takes,
3/3: Michigan 58, Michigan State 57. 24-5, 11-5
3/6: Michigan 80, Purdue 75. 25-5, 12-5
When he himself might his quietus make with a bare bodkin?
3/10: Indiana 72, Michigan 71. 25-6, 12-6 EORS.
Who would fardels 12 bear, to grunt and sweat under a weary life but that the dread of something after death,
3/14: Michigan 83, Penn State 66. 26-6
3/15: Wisconsin 68, Michigan 59. 26-7
The undiscovered country from whose boundary no traveler returns, puzzles the will and makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of?
3/21: Michigan 71, South Dakota State 56. 27-7
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; and thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied over with the pale cast of thought,
3/23: Michigan 78, Virginia Commonwealth 53. 28-7
And enterprises of great pith and moment with this regard their currents turn awry, and lose the name of action.
3/29: Michigan 87, Kansas 85. 29-7
Soft you now! The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons.
3/31: Michigan 79, Florida 59. 30-7
4/6: Michigan 61, Syracuse 56. 31-7
Be all my sins remembered.
We're past the point of coherent thought. Let's watch some pictures move instead.
[Hit THE JUMP for the best gifs from the Syracuse game, including a complete Oliver Stone-style breakdown of Otto The Orange's tragic demise.]
Louisville by five.