The captain of Michigan's 2012-13 basketball team, Josh Bartelstein, has written an e-book on the team's remarkable Final Four run featuring a forward from Zack Novak and excerpts from Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Stu Douglass. "We On: Behind The Scenes Of Michigan's Final Four Run" is available now for the very reasonable price of $7.99 at Blog Into Book and will also be on Amazon and iTunes later this week. The following is an excerpt from the book detailing Final Four Saturday—the victory over Syracuse—and the day preceding the national title time.
Final Four Saturday! We got to sleep in a little bit because we played the late game of the night. There was an incredible buzz in the hotel with Michigan fans everywhere decked out in Maize and Blue. We couldn’t really walk down into the lobby without being swarmed, so the players stayed in a secure area, but it was hard not to check it out. Gameday consisted of three or four different meetings: Offense, Defense, Special Situations, and then final thoughts. The plan was done, everyone knew how we were to beat Syracuse, now we just had to do it. We watched a ton of film, but it was really hard not to lose focus and start thinking about a night we had all dreamed of so many times. It didn’t help getting hundreds of texts from family and friends, some giving advice on how to beat the zone and others on how hard they partied the night before.
We had about a 40-minute shoot-around at the Georgia Dome. Very, very light, almost just getting shots up, but we needed to leave the hotel and get some fresh air. Sitting around all day until 7pm when our bus left would be torture. The mood was very relaxed, guys were joking around like it was the first day of practice.
The key was somehow finding a way to take a nap. You can’t watch any TV stations because everyone is just breaking down the games and at this point I couldn’t listen to it anymore. Around 6pm our uniforms got dropped off with the official Final Four sticker on them. There was no turning back now. The bus left around 6:30pm, but the town was incredibly dead outside. Everyone was inside the stadium watching the first game or at a bar. The streets were empty as we took the 20-minute ride in.
I don’t think I need to go into much detail as to what took place during that 40-minute game. But in case you forgot. Mitch was Magic Johnson picking apart that zone, Caris and Spike hit huge threes, Jordan Morgan took an iconic charge, and Michigan fans took over downtown Atlanta for the night. Our game plan to let a 6’11 freshman who just began starting games a month ago break down the best zone in the country in the biggest game of his life worked. Were you surprised? Honestly, I said it before, but you can’t give our coaching staff a week to prepare for a team. It isn’t fair; they had this scheme down to a T.
We didn’t get back to our hotel until around 2:30am. Between another media session, guys getting cold tubs and figuring out some logistical issues, it was a long night, but we were all wide awake. The competition after the game was to see who had the most text messages on their phone. Don’t quote me on this, but I think Mitch had around 210. I got a message from the Mayor of Chicago, so I was feeling good. The other thing that hit us was that we were playing for the National Championship literally in one day. You spend all season thinking about championship Monday and the Michigan Wolverines were there!
[Hit THE JUMP for J-Bart's account of the hectic, exciting day leading up to the national championship game.]
I think I fell asleep around 4:00am. The fans were waiting for us back at the hotel, still packed in the lobby screaming our names and taking pictures. The coaching staff met and began preparations for Louisville. The breakdown for preparing for the second game of a tournament weekend goes as follows: Coach B won’t spend one second looking ahead. So he didn’t worry about VCU, Florida, or Louisville until after we won those first-round games. Each assistant was assigned a team we could play and it was their job to be ready to make a full presentation. Obviously you can’t prepare nearly as much as you would for a normal game, you just focus on the meat and potatoes. What they want to do on offense, the types of defenses they can play, and most importantly, learning about every player. Then present to the team in three sessions: offensive concepts, defensive concepts, and personnel. This is what took place all day Sunday.
We had a light practice back at the Georgia Dome as we made for 100th trip there. It was mostly a walkthrough just trying to put in some of the plan for the following night. The pack of media waiting for us was nuts. From 68 to 64 to 32 to 16 to 8 to 4 to only 2 teams left they can write about. We were all trying to take in the moment, but it was so hard with the zoo that was going on around us.
Then for the first time all week, I got to see my family . All 50 of them—aunts, uncles, and cousins—came to our hotel. It was overwhelming, but something that I will never forget. For all of them to make the trip and be so excited to be part of this was truly surreal. I think I can speak for all my teammates when I say our families getting to live this dream with us made it way better.
We went out to dinner at a restaurant and I termed it the last supper . It kind of hit me there that this was the last time team 96 would eat together. Most times teams don’t really know when their season is going to end. You never expect to lose, which is why the season ending is always so hard. This was different: the last college basketball game of the year and we were playing in it. We ate at a steakhouse in a back private room, with all the patrons wondering why there were six cop cars located outside and people guarding the door.
As we got back to the hotel, I took some of the freshman aside and joked about how far we had come. From guys just trying to fit in during open gym, to now being crowned the Fresh Five, which I will never ever call them, it had been an amazing journey. I just needed to make sure they knew the moment was big, but no bigger than this team. The final message was this: “When you run on that court, take a second, find your family and friends, smile because you are living a dream, and then go have the time of your life. 99.99% of kids growing up want to be in our shoes, let’s go show them how fun it is.”
Again, you can purchase the full interactive eBook here, and keep an eye out for "We On: Behind The Scenes of Michigan's Final Four Run" on Amazon and iTunes later this week.