Monday, April 8, 2013

The NCAA Championship - Campus Memories and Some New Ones

I wasn’t going to post until AFTER tonight’s game, but then I started letting the idea enter my thinking that there is, of course, a chance that the hottest shooting team in college hoops goes cold and Michigan succumbs to the pressure and loses to the Pitino led Cardinals of Louisville….(Here in Michigan, we say it “Looweeville”). However, I do believe that this Michigan team just ignores pressure and I also believe that Coach Pitino is under a TREMENDOUS amount of pressure in this game and will be more apt to let his players see that and thus, succumb to the pressure of being the Number 1 Seed.

I love being the underdog. I really do. And I will predict here and now that Michigan prevails tonight. Of course, I predicted it almost three weeks ago when I picked my bracket, taking Michigan to the promised land, so I guess I’m just repeating myself here…But I do love being the dog in this one….It’s comforting.

And THAT got me to thinking about 1989. Michigan had a pretty good regular season and had made it into the tournament as a #3 seed. Then, all hell broke loose and it was learned that turncoat Bill Frieder had planned on leaving Michigan for the open job at Arizona State. (personal note: MORON)  And suddenly, a three seeded head coach-less team looked vulnerable and like a big Underdog... However, it was also learned that Frieder and Bo didn’t get along and there had been history between the two. So, while the move was unexpected, it became readily apparent, especially with the Schembechler now famous line, “A MICHIGAN MAN is going to coach the Michigan Wolverines” after Frieder said he would continue to coach the team through the tournament. I half expected Bo to step in and coach the team himself. Which, if you read the Fab Five book, he more or less did give them an inspirational pep talk like only Bo could do before the regional games at Fisher’s request. And I jumped ahead of myself there: Bo named Steve Fisher the Head Basketball Coach for the interim and that single act led the Michigan Basketball Team on a dizzying run into the history books as one of the best teams and NCAA Tournaments ever…

It was a delight to be on campus for that period. Michigan had won the Rose Bowl that year and everyone was still kind of buzzing about that. The first game against Xavier was closer than most expected and I think it left a lot of Michigan fans feeling like we were so close, but with the loss of Frieder, things were falling apart. The 2nd round game against South Alabama was a little better, but still, we didn’t look good.

It wasn’t until the 2nd weekend when things heated up. Michigan won a somewhat close game against the ever dangerous North Carolina Tar Heels led by the Dean himself. Michigan played (and destroyed) a very good Virginia team with players stepping up and taking charge. Glenn Rice, Rumeal Robinson and Sean Higgins all played huge in that game and really got the campus and fan base buzzing. But it wasn’t until the game against Illinois that things went completely nuts.

What you need to know about the Illinois game was that Michigan had lost both regular season contests to the Illini and Coach “Brillo Pad” Henson. For those of you wondering why he had that nickname, well, here’s photo I dug up from the period when he sported what can only be described as a rug from “Toupee’s ’R’ Us!” Although, maybe it wasn’t a rug and just the world’s worst comb over….EVER….

Anyway, the Brillo Pad had his kids ready, but Michigan showed up ready as well. And in what can only be described as one of the best NCAA games out there, Michigan edged the Illini in a thriller of a game with a last second shot by Higgins that put Michigan on top, 83-81.

Now, please note that being on campus when something like this is happening miles away doesn’t give students a chance to “express” themselves as they would normally like to. And based on the fact that we hadn’t beaten the Illini in two tries that season, well, things were tense. And it was a warm spring day in Ann Arbor.
And I believe they actually played the Illini on or about on April 1, or the first Saturday in April, which is also the traditional day of the “Hash Bash” in Ann Arbor, not that the MMQ ever attended one of THOSE…

Ann Arbor’s finest hadn’t prepped for that, either. South U was the meeting place and if you were a student and weren’t there, well, you were the only one NOT there. However, there were plenty of people about and the situation was perfect for an impromptu party…Yes, some continue to refer to it as the “Riot on South U”….But Michigan and Ann Arbor leaves those types of activities to the professionals up in East Lansing known as Sparty’s….You know, couch burning, minor vandalism and the like. Never the less, the “riot” became the National story right in addition to Steve Fisher getting the team to the Final Four.  Then it was on to the championship game against Seton Hall. That pressure filled double overtime thriller that lasted well into Monday night/Tuesday morning where Rumeal sank the two charity throws and Ann Arbor again congregated on South
But by this time, there was less rioting and simply more revelry. I do remember a lot of alcohol consumption and there were bottles being passed around. It was more or less good, clean fun and a great time to be had on campus.

Which brings us to this season.

First round games I caught with some friends locally at pubs and taverns around Michigan. Then, for the Sweet 16, we were in Florida and the Holland Clan literally took over the Beach House in Anna Maria Island with Uncle Jeff and his clan to watch Michigan literally snatch defeat from the jaws of a Jayhawks victory……What a game. Then, we went back to that little bar with Grandma “H”, Uncle Greg and his clan seeing as how it was our good luck spot on Sunday and took it over again with a LOT of Michigan Faithful from all over and one brave Gator fan that kept poking his head out of the kitchen (That’s where Gator Grads get jobs where they can use the skills they picked up in college) to see what the score was. I have to admit….It’s been a tough year to be a Gator. Crapping your pants in the bowl game to Louisville and now this dismantling by the Wolverines.

I will say that the Victors has never sounded louder and


is now something that every wait-staff person at the Beach House is now intimately familiar with!

Then there was Saturday night where Trey Burke might – MIGHT - have been a little off his game (but a lot of that was due to the perimeter defense that The ‘Cuse was running) and the rest of the team, well, let’s say it:


And being back in Michigan in 40 degree weather kind or makes me wish I was still in Florida…..But, never the less – Here’s looking forward to tonight’s game. Michigan is giving 4, but who cares…..

One prediction the MMQ made at various times throughout my career:

1. Michigan Men’s Basketball, after hiring JB, would go to a Final Four and potentially win a National Title before the MSU Football team got invited to a BCS game (and won). Not only has this one come true, but Michigan is in contention to win the whole enchilada….And believe me I KNOW how much ALL YOU SPARTY’S LOVE THAT!

In the Mid Season B1G prediction entry:

2. That something special was happening in Ann Arbor this year at “CRYSLER” arena (please note the Spelling. Spell check in Word hates that spelling, but oh well.) And that I thought this could be one of those years. (Short of tonight’s outcome, this qualifies).
3. Trey Burke was the best point guard playing in the B1G and quite possibly the nation (Swept all 4 major basketball awards)
4. That the freshmen on this team would be household names before the season was through (McGary, Stauskas, GRIII) not to mention “Spike” Albrecht and Caris Levert…Two guys that came alive against the Orange with 3 pointers.

And finally, wrapping up my short mid season prediction for this team:

What’s it all mean? This team SCREAMS Final 4. And everyone knows how tough it is to get to that level in a one and done tournament. But, they are laying the groundwork in convincing fashion.

So, again, whatever tonight’s outcome, it’s been a wild ride and an even better NCAA tournament!


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