Context

Submitted by Ace on April 9th, 2013 at 12:52 PM

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Look at it, one more time. It's still beautiful, and forever will be.

Comments

Muttley

April 9th, 2013 at 1:09 PM ^

Dean Smith said something like "Does this make me a better coach today than I was yesterday?"

Whether or not the milestone fell into place last night, John Beilein is a GREAT coach.

True Blue Grit

April 9th, 2013 at 1:12 PM ^

It was a wonderful season.  I couldn't watch the aftermath, so I left the room.  I hate watching the other team celebrate and couldn't bear to see our guys' disappointment.  But, I'm very thankful for a fun and exciting tournament run, and that Michigan basketball is highly relevant once again.  It'll be interesting to see how next years' team shapes up once we know who's coming back.  Now I'm fantasizing over everyone including Trey, THJr, GRIII, and MM all coming back, but realize that probably won't happen.  Go Blue!

Indiana Blue

April 9th, 2013 at 1:13 PM ^

with the silence just demonstrates what a gifted athlete Tery Burke is.  He had to fisrt catch up and you could tell that he was going to challenge that shot.  It was a perfect block ... perfect.  It looked good last night to everyone person watching (save for one person).   I too sat there, by myself (wife can't see the end of these things) in silence ... just thinking of what SHOULD have been.  Our first 4 games of the tourney was great basketball to watch ... it displayed ball control, lack of fouls and gifted players (plus a once in a lifetime come back win).  

But the Final Four games never allowed our "style of play".  In today's game having no turnovers and a team that doesn't look to foul gets you thugged.  It looked like the B1G conference games with officials just as worthless as the the B1G's.  I am sad that basketball has evolved into something other than what it should be ...

Go Blue!

SHub'68

April 9th, 2013 at 9:34 PM ^

And I also agree with your point about B1G-style officiating.  But it did not show up for us until the final.  Mostly I was thrilled that we didn't see 40 minutes of wrestling during the first 5 games.  We saw real basketball with press-breaking and zone-busting and Xs and Os vs Xs and Os.  So I got lulled into the belief that our style of play was perfect for the tournament and an unfortunate liability we needed to play through in the Big Ten.

Then came last night as I watched in horror at something that looked like a combination of Michigan State and Indiana being allowed to tear at arms on every defensive rebound, knock point guards to the ground during transition, hit arms on jump shots, shove rebounders out of bounds...I saw phantom fouls, missed kicks, fouls on wrong players...ugh,...And it is depressing.

Depressing because I live in ACC country and catch a few of their games and see that the style of officiating promotes a cleaner game.  A game that is allowed to get up and down in transition, get defensive rebounds and not have to fend off claws ripping at arms.  A game where there are no Aaron Crafts who are allowed to mug Trey Burkes all the way down the court.  A game where you don't have to convert linebackers into forwards and OLs into centers just to get a rebound or two - or to make a basket through a sea of contact.

Depressing because I allowed myself to think that with Michigan's success, perhaps the Big Ten would figure out it needed to clean up the rugby scrums many of our games have become.  Maybe they would take steps to get the style of play back to the beauty that is basketball as played by 'real' not 'cutthroat' rules.

But most of all depressing because refs from outside the Big Ten officiated that clusterf--k of a game I saw last night.  There was beauty - a tribute to the greatness of the players on the court, from both sides.  But the beauty was soiled with poo by some kind of horrid Sparty-ball nonsense that was allowed to happen IN THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP game viewed by millions of TVs around the country.

Look, I'm not bitter at the loss (depressed, yes).  I think we could have had the exact same result with a clean nonsense-free game -- Louisville is a talented team with a great coach.  And Michigan has shown they can rise above the scrum and still win.  And for a few moments last night, I thought we might just do that...it was still a great game!

But...Depressing because I have a bad feeling the style of play will respond to what won the championship and trend into the abyss...

TheGhostofYost

April 9th, 2013 at 1:16 PM ^

It will take me a while to not be angry about this call and many others.  There's no just zero accountability.  Doug Gottlieb said it best:  "If you allow it to be a brawl, Louisville is going to win every time."

Jivas

April 9th, 2013 at 1:53 PM ^

My anger over the call isn't that it influenced the outcome of the game - I don't think it did.

My anger is because Trey Burke has made many magnificent plays this season, too many to count.  And that was the last magnificent play that Trey Burke made this season...it's a damn shame that the world will remember it as a foul and not for what it was, as Ace notes, minus that context.

jmblue

April 9th, 2013 at 10:38 PM ^

I don't know . . . I think it'll be forgotten down the road by non-Michigan fans, because it didn't happen right at the end of the game.  The recency effect is big right now.  

In any event, Trey is one of the best shotblockers I've ever seen for a guy that size.  He was credited with 20 (!) blocked shots this year (and it should have been 21).  He really stepped up his game this year on the defensive end, too.

 

 

jmblue

April 9th, 2013 at 5:26 PM ^

You don't think that may have influenced the outcome of the game?  If no call is made, Louisville is denied on a fastbreak opportunity and it remains a one-possession game.  Instead, Louisville got to expand its lead to five, while Burke was saddled with four personals (which may have affected his aggressiveness on D thereafter).

 

Mabel Pines

April 9th, 2013 at 1:16 PM ^

Thanks for capturing most of our feelings!  Agree 100%.  Still annoyed that was a foul on Trey, though.   And Kate and Spike would be a fabulous couple.  She'd be lucky to have him!

MGoWestCoast

April 9th, 2013 at 1:18 PM ^

We have to move on as a fan base.  This was a magical run.  The fact that they came up a few points short and the officiating was less than ideal should do nothing to diminish that. 

 

Its really nice to see the big guns take the reigns this morning and revive the best website on the internet from the depths it reached last night.

Thanks guys.

willirwin1778

April 10th, 2013 at 4:47 PM ^

Officials need to be subjected to the same scrutiny that we put on the players.  So, I don't think people should "move on" without continuing to draw some much needed attention to Monday's numerous officiating errors in a public forum that can drive home some accountability.  

The refs need to compete as well, and like our players, that is the only way they will improve. 

 

 

My name ... is Tim

April 9th, 2013 at 1:18 PM ^

Might be your best writing so far. Thanks. Made me feel a little better about the loss. You're dead on about the disappointment FOR these guys. It'd be impossible to be disappointed in them.

J.

April 9th, 2013 at 1:29 PM ^

I was sitting above the basket, in the corner, where that play occurred.  I cheered wildly, because, damn it, at least he showed effort and fouled him hard, and maybe Siva would think twice before driving back up into the lane.  I mean, obviously it was a foul -- Siva was way ahead, Burke came back and hacked him...

Then I saw the replay, and that he had actually caught up and blocked it cleanly.  I don't really blame the referee on this one. Trey Burke can do things that stretch the bounds of credulity. I think the ref just saw what I saw -- nobody can possibly catch up and make that play against Siva.

It's really, really fun to care about basketball in April again... and the basketball team is 2-0 at Cowboys Stadium.  Just sayin'...

STW P. Brabbs

April 9th, 2013 at 1:36 PM ^

Echoing other comments, this is excellent.

A quibble about the refereeing, though: yeah, that call on the block was atrocious, but there were others in UM's favor. There was also Gorgui's first block early on, which was definitely goaltending. But there's always missing points for both teams, as you say.

BUT one call changed the game: that bullshit where Burke flew past Hancock - and didn't even touch him - but because Hancock was playing for the contact all along he threw up an off-balance piece of grabage and the officials just assumed Burke must have hit him.

That's two point on thos foul shots; it might be balanced by other calls going the other way. But it was also 14 minutes without Burke, including the last few of the first half when Spike was starting to let the game get away from him.

Burke had 24 points 11 shots in 26 minutes. What would have happened in 14 more? Don't know.

Jivas

April 9th, 2013 at 1:54 PM ^

I've got a million and one emotions right now, but when I spin the wheel it always lands on: we couldn't get a single stop in like the last 10 minutes of the game (or get a defensive rebound if we managed to get a stop).  If you can't get a single stop when the game matters most, it's hard to think you *deserve* to win, regardless of terrible officiating or random ball-bounces.  Those kids worked their tails off and lost with class.  I couldn't be prouder of them.

Sometimes the other team is better.

snowcrash

April 9th, 2013 at 6:21 PM ^

We lost because we got owned on the boards after McGary picked up his 4th foul. Overall we played well enough to beat anyone else on our schedule, but as it was we were playing Louisville.

patrickdolan

April 9th, 2013 at 1:56 PM ^

This is why I come to this site--almost no whining, and appreciation of the good things--there are many--about Michigan sports.

Hats off to Louisville. And the Big Ten will be fun again next year, no?