3/3/2012 – Michigan 71, Penn State 65 – 23-8, 13-5 Big Ten
3/3/2012 – Michigan State 70, Ohio State 72 – both teams finish 13-5 in conference
A few days ago Jalen Rose did color for the Illinois game. Before he did so he took the opportunity to say "I bleed maize and blue" and that he wants the Fab Five's banners back up in 2013, when the NCAA-mandated dissociation with that era ends. I get why. From his perspective, those banners symbolize a fun time he had when he was young and some baggy pants and black socks took the nation by storm.
I don't want those banners back up. Even if you believe that Michigan got screwed over by the NCAA, that Ed Martin had tickets a bunch of different places, etc., the banners still mean not only that Michigan won some games in March 20 years ago but that they didn't win any for a long time after that. Those banners are not only about the four unsullied members of the Fab Five and the enigma that is Chris Webber but Taylor and Traylor and Bullock and what those teams represented.
Not to pick on a guy with obvious problems, but this is the quickest way to get that across:
Dom Ingerson coming out of a lake naked, about to be arrested. That's where the Fab Five era ended.
Even if it's thanks largely to things out of their control, that's a fact. Steve Fisher had tenuous control over the Fab Five. He was see-no-evil about Ed Martin, and that attitude eventually turned malignant. This had obvious off-court effects, but even worse than the flesh wound issued by the NCAA years after the fact was the way Fisher's abdication showed up on the court. Even as they were playing, I hated them. They invented being Terrelle Pryor. When we talk about how easy it is to root for Michigan's teams these days, the unstated subtext is always thank God they're nothing like Maurice Taylor.
Yes yes: socioeconomic something something, The Wire, Bomani Jones and Jason Whitlock, etc. Doesn't change the fact that Denard Robinson is a joy and Taylor sulked around the court putting in just enough effort to get a B- while taking a bunch of money from a guy he'd been told to stay away from, then rolled his SUV with Mateen Cleaves in it.
While I feel bad for Jalen Rose in the limited way a civilian can feel bad for a famous multimillionaire former NBA star, those banners are the seed of a poisonous tree. I'd rather leave it in the past. I'd rather never think about Maurice Taylor again.
I don't think we have to worry about this one coming down. John Beilein heads the ethics committee; when he's taped giving a pregame speech he invariably comes off like a high school chemistry teacher who got lost on his way to work and would rather be talking about pipettes but is making a go of this whole basketball-coaching business.
You may remember me from such characters as Bryan Cranston in the Breaking Bad pilot
Michigan's players run the gamut from lightly recruited to literally un-recruited. Zack Novak once knew 62 digits of pi. Michigan yoinked its starters away from Harvard, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Xavier, and nobody.* If someone has done something outside of the NCAA guidelines to assemble this team they have chosen poorly and are aging into dust as we speak.
When I wrote the Webber piece linked above I noted that it was a little stomach-churning that Michigan's reaction to the Martin scandal was to go from a basketball team Ice Cube thought was cool to Opie In The Sky With Diamonds:
I don't understand Jalen Rose, don't understand Webber, don't understand the lady in the gas station on the South Side of Chicago I asked directions of who responded "I don't know about any damn directions." I do understand the visceral thrill of those bald heads and black socks, but only vicariously, like a kid from Troy buying an NWA cassette. I can't say why I thought Jim Nantz's obviously racist distaste for the Fab Five was obviously racist, but I had a Nantz-like reaction to that lady in Chicago. I understand why my fiancée continually mishears Duke's mascot as the "white devils" and simultaneously have less than zero sympathy for Robert Traylor and would want to punch him in the face if I ever met him and he was tied to a rock and he had no idea who I was and I could definitely run away before he got loose.
Webber's redemption never happened with him or Taylor or Bullock, and while Bullock was from some suburb in Maryland and cannot be redeemed—seriously, he can die in a fire for all I care—maybe if Chris Webber said something brutally honest it would help me be less confused and sad about Michigan basketball in the 90s, and maybe a bunch of other things of greater significance.
It bothers me that Michigan's response to the NCAA scandal was to go from culturally black enough to have Ice Cube in your documentary to Duke Lite, but goddammit I also wanted some directions.
This remains true but is of limited application outside of moody pieces about things better left buried.
What yesterday did is bury that, permanently. I doubt I'm ever going to grapple with what the Fab Five means to Michigan's program again. It's not a looming anchor or propellant or injustice or cautionary tale anymore. It's not really anything. It's not relevant, finally finally finally. It took 20 years, a Big Ten championship, and Michigan's best recruiting class since the Fab Five to do it but now it's in the past.
This program has been arriving for just over a year now. For months I've had to tamp down the "what about next year!" urge many of us feel when surveying the roster and recruiting class. The great thing is: it arrived before Novak and Douglass aged out. Instead of trying to keep themselves together on the radio like David Merritt or not having to but not being out there like CJ Lee, Novak and Douglass will come back next year for a banner-raising ceremony. They'll watch a really good basketball team play afterwards, and they'll know that whenever anyone looks up in the Crisler rafters they'll be there even if their name isn't.
This program is not going away, and the culture is set. This one is not going to end up with a naked guy coming out of a lake. With all due respect to Jalen Rose, that's where the focus should be. This is Michigan: pi-memorizing, expectation-exceeding, Opie-headed, three-bombing, AP-chemistry-teacher basketball. Oh, and champions.
*[Respectively: Douglass, Burke, Hardaway, Morgan, Novak.]
The official site put together a react video that is up there amongst the best items in their brief history doing this*:
I think Vogrich is exclaiming "that's what I'd doooooooo" as Buford hits his ridiculous game winner. Zack Novak's slo-mo abs are for you, ladies. ESPN highlights:
*["Louie Caporusso: Love Expert" is still #1 in my book.]
Oh, right, the game. It was mostly notable for a couple of frustrating Penn State surges after Michigan pushed out to near-20 point leads. The first one was just one of those things, the second a frustrating combination of pity refereeing (a real phenomenon) and Michigan getting lax.
If there's any concern to be pulled from the game it's the unexpected softness of Michigan's generally quality D against a team that is terrible offensively. Penn State got to the basket far too often for a team of their stature. Some of that is Smotrycz, who is still uncomfortable as a 5. Some of that was Morgan not playing up to his usual standard. It's likely those issues get worked out before the Big Ten Tourney.
Shooting shootists alert. Dakich brought this up every time Smotrycz or Hardaway hit a shot, and he's right: if Smotrycz and Hardaway are hitting shots, look out. The two combined to hit 6 of 10 from three. If that's happening and Burke is nailing those mid-range shots off the hedge, Michigan will cruise by anyone they can D up.
Unfortunately, a couple games can't erase the a conference-schedule long slump. Hardaway's stretch of efficient play is now six games long, though. At some point it will cross over into expectation. (Until he misses a couple to start the game.)
Meanwhile, Douglass. Douglass had nine points on five shots, six assists, just one turnover, and zero fouls despite having a plurality of the Tim Frazier duty. He's almost a second point guard on the floor.
I've said this before but Douglass's improvement this year is a lot like Will Heininger's: it gives you a ton of faith in Michigan's player development. If Lavall Jordan can just tighten up Hardaway's handle a little bit…
The tournament. Michigan plays the Iowa-Northwestern winner at 6:30 Friday; if they win they'll draw either Purdue, Nebraska, or Ohio State in the semis. Full bracket from Inside The Hall:
U MAD, BRAH? Derrick Nix:
"It's tough, even though we're the Big Ten champs. It really means nothing because we had to share it with two other teams."
The worst part about sharing?
"We had to share it with our little nephews, and that sucks. So now they're happy because we lost. We got to just try to win this Big Ten tournament."
The top teams went 1-1 against each other and Michigan's one-plays were Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Nebraska.
Adventures in poor timing. This is the saddest banner unfurling ever:
Even if they lost they're completely crushed they shared the title with Michigan. Sparty gonna Spart.
This RCMB thread posts the M celebration video; OP says he "wants to punch the nearest SCummer" but is named "Dong Forest," which is a dead giveaway. Troll on, troller. Sparty in a nutshell: "I'd rather o$u win the title outright than um get to share it."
HSR suggests a banner design:
I already have my request in for bleeding, but if that doesn't take I'd actually like to see the sign have a listing of the seniors on the team with it.
Quotes and whatnot from UMHoops. Burke got in a good Yogi Berra-ism:
On watching the final seconds of the game: “It’s indescribable. As soon as he shot it, the ball was in the air. It was silent the whole time the ball was in the air. Before he inbounded the ball, they had showed Buford, and he had a look in his eye, and it just looked like he was going to take this last shot and he was going to hit it. Once he got the ball, went left and shot it, Appling played great D. Once it went in, everybody just flooded the hallway, jumping up and down. My biggest fear was that they were going to hit a half court shot or something, but once they missed that, it was great.”
On the emotion of winning a Big Ten title: “The most rewarding part of what just happened is watching our young men’s faces. When you’ve coached this long, and our staff knows this, it’s not about the W’s. It’s about the journey. And while it’s not the end of the journey, it’s certainly a highlight in this year’s journey, and for some guys a four-year journey.”Latest bracketology still has M on the three-line in Nashville… with Vandy a potential second round matchup. Protected seeds, Lunardi?
He continued, "now if you'll open your textbooks to chapter eight we can start talking about covalent bonds."
“I never could have imagined this when I came here,” the senior guard Zack Novak said. “It’s like Christmas every day, having a great place to practice and play, all the fan support, and we’re working hard and getting the wins.
“We’ve all had our hearts broken here, so we really appreciate things we’re getting and how they’re coming to us. It’s setting us up for even bigger successes now and in the future.”
Baumgardner is all like "a banner is a banner is a banner." Agreed.