I was 15 when John Beilein took over the job. Before he got here, I never really paid much attention to the basketball team. I know very little of Tommy Amaker’s teams, basically only what I read on here- that he was a decent coach and could get some talent, but could never get us over the hump. Beilein intrigued me, since I had seen him go on his runs with WVU, Pittsnoggling teams left and right en route to an Elite Eight. I liked the idea of an offense that rained threes, and the 1-3-1 sounded pretty cool, so I figured I’d give the basketball team a shot.
The 2007-08 season was obviously one we’d like to forget. After a 22-win season by Amaker in his last year, dropping to 10 was an inauspicious start to say the least. Kelvin Grady was still a baskteball player back then. We did go 5-5 in our last ten, with a “signature” win over Ohio, and saw the beginning of DeShawn and Manny.
‘08-09 proved to be a breakthrough season, as we went Dancing for the first time since '98. A big early season win against top 5 UCLA gave was huge, as well as the bananas game against Duke at Crisler. David Merritt and CJ Lee ran the show that year, with Manny and DeShawn becoming quite the duo. That year also introduced us to a couple freshman named Novak and Douglass. We were on the bubble late in the year, needing another signature win but coming up empty against Ohio, Staee. And UConn. A win against Purdue was huge, and we ended up getting to the round of 32 after beating the Full Court Pressing Trevor Bookers and his flowing dreads. Then some guy called Blake Griffin went ham, and Anthony Wright was the only thing keeping us from a complete blowout.
’09-10 was a huge disappointment, as the team returned basically everyone of note, as well as brought in Darius Morris. The departure of Lee and Merritt proved huge, as Morris was not ready to run the point. Not even a mid season acquisition of Laval Lucas-Perry was enough to overcome our poor play. After ending the regular season at 14-16, we had a chance to beat Ohio in the BTT semis, but then Evan Turner’s 40 footer happened. OMGWTFGUARDTHEINBOUNDER!!
’10-11 was the season of The Butterfly, Lobstrycz, freshman TIMMAY, and Grit. 7 games into the Big Ten slate, we sat at 1-6, another disappointing season ahead of us, and next up a trip to Staee where we would surely lose. Zack Novak had a leadership aneurysm, and the season was not lost. A “GET THE FUCK OFF MY COURT” later, with Morris giving us 15 and 7 a game- and Michigan found itself in the dance again, this time blowing out Bruce Pearl by 30. Again a loss in the round of 32 plagued us, this time against the Fighting Plumlees. The Butterfly had a chance to send the game to overtime, but it was not to be, and rolled off the rim in true Indiana fashion.
’11-12. Exit The Butterfly, Enter Trey. We all know the story here, first Big Ten Championship since ’86, Jared Sullinger killed us in the BTT against that Ohio, and we had our early exit against not that Ohio in the Big Dance. Disappointment was had by all, and Trey was feared to leave us after only the first date. Novak and Douglass graduated, leaving as the real heroes of the Michigan Basketball revival.
Then this season happened. 16-0 happened. #1 AP happened. Frustrating defense as the losses against top teams happened. Wisconsin going to the bank happened. Staee blow out happened. Penn State happened. Soulcrushing chance for a share of the Big Ten Crown happened. Many, including myself, saw a defeated team- one that would bow out early in the Tournament after having a shot at a 1 seed all season and ending up with a 4. Then Magic happened. McGary happened. Havoc happened. Trey for Trey happened. Unconscious Stauskas happened. Jordan Morgan taking all the charges happened.
I’ve been abroad in Europe since the end of January, and I have watched every single game since then, most of which occurred after midnight. This has been a surreal experience for me, as I’ve had the pleasure of watching this team play while traveling around to different countries experiencing all that life has to offer. I love this team. All the players have contributed at one point or another during the season- from the Senior Leadership of the Walk-Ons, to the All-Everything Trey. I went through my teenage years watching Beilein build this program, with all the previously mentioned memories of highs and lows holding a special place in my heart. I cannot express how excited and happy I am for this team to have this chance tonight. Regardless of whether they win or lose, this might be my favorite Michigan Team in any sport, ever. Denard and the '11 squad made made it hard for another team to accomplish that, and I don’t remember the ’97 team, since I was only 5. I can’t remember seeing a team that I want to see succeed more than this team. I am so proud of them, and in the time I’ve reflected on where we came from while writing this, the eyes began to water, and I thought about how tonight will be the last time we see them play together.
They might as well win the whole damn thing.
Michigan Students -
Win with class and lose with class. It's what this team is about, it's what this University is about and I hope you carry on that tradition tonight.
I don't want to sound all "get off my lawn," but when I was a student in 1997, we beat then No. 2 Penn State 34-8 in Happy Valley. The game wasn't even that close. After, students began congregating on the lawn of then President Lee Bollinger's house. It was awesome. He let us in. A huge number of students partied in that massive, beautiful house on South U without destroying anything. No one burned couches, turned over the cars or did anything that required police or the fire department to intervene. We showed how great it was to be Michigan Wolverines.
Tonight we play for the National Championship. No matter what happens, keep in mind that you too represent this University. Do so with class and honor and leave rioting to Sparty and tOSU.
Seeing as how Louisville has stayed rather mum - as opposed to say, Syracuse, Florida, or Kansas - I think we need to get the mojo going in our favor.
Please discuss below how we have absolutely no chance tonight against the vaunted Louisville press. They're a team of destiny, I tell you! I'll still be proud of our team when we inevitably lose this evening.
I am stopped in Kentucky on my way to the game.
I am hoping this message gets to the Maize Rage in attendance.
My suggestion is that, win or lose, we do the cheer done at the end of the last home game at Yost:
clap, clap, clap
for the five seniors who have contributed so much, while playing so little.
Hopefully, when we are 20 points up and they are being inserted into the lineup.
Or after the game.
Remaining Games Chart:
Since the last time I've modified the chart a bit so instead of a non-sensical number average, "Difficulty" is now on a log scale of 1 to 10 of the KenPom/RPI average weighted by site of game.
|23||#South Dakota St.||5||103||75||71-56|
Well, Here We Are
Not surprisingly, the most difficult game by the numbers comes last. Michigan displaced the previous #1 KenPom team convincingly and is rewarded by playing the new #1 for the championship.
The good news is that these rankings and statistics are a formality at this point. The game is a one-off, winner-take-all, who is hot on the right night, who gets the 50/50 call, who can make the shots. Michigan has been in every single game this season except for one and the circumstances leading up to that game are not what we have here tonight.
NCAA Tourney Run vs B1G Gauntlet
If you laid out Michigan’s tournament games from the Sweet 16 to the Championship you would see before you, at least according to KenPom, an unrivaled task of difficulty – four consecutive top 10 opponents, with lots of travel and not much time to prepare.
Michigan, incredibly, has already run an equally challenging gauntlet earlier this year. There are no advanced statistics that can measure what kind of benefit of experience a team takes away from playing the top four teams consecutively (three on the road) in a nine day span; but it is safe to say that these are the kinds of things that either make you or break you. Regardless of outcome Monday night the answer is already clear.
February 2nd – 12th
March 29th – April 8th
As painful as it was to watch, can you draw up a tougher cluster of regular season games with which to teach and prepare this extremely young Michigan team?
- Without Burke, could Michigan have rallied vs Kansas?
- Without Hardaway pouring in 21 points on 5 of 7 three point shooting in a fifteen point victory, does Michigan have what it takes to beat South Dakota St?
- Without Stauskas firebombing Florida, do the Gators keep it close and have a shot to win?
- Without Robinson III's offensive efficiency and offensive rebounding does Michigan sputter in any of its tournament matchups, particularly Syracuse or SDSt?
- Without McGary becoming a world beater, doesn't Michigan suffer an inevitable "Wisconsin"-style loss to Syracuse or get blown out by Kansas or get upset by VCU?
- Without Albrecht becoming the most eligible bachelor and putting together a tournament highlight reel all his own, does Burke get worn down to the point Michigan exits early?
- Without LeVert making two critical three pointers and playing a terrific defensive game, does Michigan have what it takes to outlast Syracuse?
- Without Jordan Morgan "getting stops", does Michigan make it to the Championship game?
The best part of this run has been every rotation player has made plays crucial to the success of the whole team. As much as I thought the team's success would be utterly reliant on Trey Burke's performance, as went he so would the team's fate. Now vs Kansas this was true. But against South Dakota St and Syracuse in particular this was very much not the case. As a whole, the team has exceeded wildest expectations.
The Path To 32:
At Christmas I had seen this team play three games out in New York, I knew they were special. Now to climb to the top of the mountain we can throw out all the numbers, forget all the statistics, take our own time-out and appreciate how awesome this team is. The most difficult game of the season is the last. There is no tomorrow, but there is no fear.