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.