Sunday, March 20, 2011

Waiting Till the End to Say My Piece

January 27. I was on my computer when I spotted that the Michigan-Michigan State basketball game was going to be on ESPN3.com. Yes, the game was at East Lansing; yes, the Wolverines hadn't won there in 15 years; yes, they had just lost six straight and were 1-6 in the Big Ten, but I was still excited. It would be the first time I'd really seen them in action since late December - which would make my grand total M basketball viewings for the year go up to 2.

But when I got to the website, I was dismayed to see that there was only two minutes left in the game. My sadness quickly turned to elation when I found out we were winning! I nervously watched the final seconds click down, and just like that, the tide had turned. After hearing for a month on Detroit sports radio that Michigan head coach John Beilein would likely be fired after this season, and that this team was too young and there were no leaders, it was a shock to my system. Sometimes, a good dose of positive energy can really renew a person!

So I kept paying attention, with my ear to the ground. I didn't make any proclamations that Michigan was the best - because they weren't, but also because I didn't want to take this "upset" and make it a big deal. (Even though I really really wanted to.)

That became my mindset for the rest of the season. After close calls (Wisconsin) and more fun games (MSU again, Minnesota), I still wasn't going to announce this team was turning a corner. And even after they came back against Illinois in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament (since they'd earned a bye), I wasn't going to announce to the world that Michigan was back.

Nope, not even after Michigan pounded Tennessee 75-45 in the "second" round of the NCAA Tourney was I going to proclaim that this had been a good season.

Only now, after a narrow loss to Duke and the end of the season, will I make my remarks:

That was a good season!

After starting well (beating Harvard) and having an awful middle (you lost to Indiana?!), the Michigan Wolverines' players came together as a team to share responsibilities. Even though players like Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway Jr. got their names out into the public, there were other players like Stu Douglass shooting threes and Zack Novak trying to guard the big men and snatching rebounds away from them. Even though only two players had gone to the Big Dance before (Douglass and Novak), they showed poise and patience in their two games at that level.

But there's one problem to this season: haven't we seen this before?

Two years ago, in the 2008-09 season, Michigan had built a respectable record and had also gone to the NCAA Tournament's second round, losing to Blake Griffin and number 2 Oklahoma. They had almost everyone returning for the next year, including Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims. But they had a down year and didn't even make the tournament. The fact that they made it back this year with no Senior leadership was huge!

But will history repeat itself? After all, we are having almost all our players from this year returning for the next year. Are we going to have all our offseason expectations dashed by Christmas?

I hope that the Wolverines take recent history into account and are able to build on this season. Then hopefully I can proclaim this amazing season from Day One!