Michigan Wolverine Basketball to Final Four: Tangled Up in Blue Retrospective
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After 20 long years, Michigan has made a redemptive return to the Final Four. Fading from memory are the specters of Ed Martin, Brian Ellerbe, and the unfortunate mock turtle necks of Tommy Amaker.
In one fifth of a century, two banners (NIT) were raised to the Crisler Arena rafters and four removed (including the '92 and '93 Final Four commemoratives).
1992-1993 was an awkward year for many of us. In Michigan, where most high school graduates face the continental divide of East Lansing or Ann Arbor, I chose Trinity College in Hartford, CT.
'93 was the Fab Five's sophomore year, come March I watched Michigan's tournament run on a tiny black-and-white television in the common room of my quad dorm room—sweating and screaming through Blue's 86-84 second-round overtime win over UCLA.
As one of maybe three or four other Michiganders in a potted-ivy student body of approximately 1,500, no one could quite figure out the ruckus coming from 118 Elton.
It was that magical Michigan run of 1993—combined with pedantic phone calls from my friends in Ann Arbor—that convinced me to transfer to U of M.
In the interim, Chris Webber went pro and while I clearly recall a raucous 1994 St. Patty's Day first- round nailbiter over Pepperdine, I must say I felt just a bit cheated when the Fab Four fell to Corliss Williamson and Arkansas in the Elite Eight—my first year on campus.
A Jalen Rose floater that would have kept the game close just wouldn't fall.
@jimmyking24 they got the black socks today ut oh— Danny Evans (@MuPhi_2007) March 31, 2013
By 1995, only Jimmy King and Ray Jackson remained from the Fab Five and we watched them lose to Western Kentucky in the first round of the NCAAs with much disgust.
The mighty had fallen.
1996 featured the Original Fresh Five with Maurice Taylor, Maceo Baston and Robert Traylor. Hype surrounded the team, but they lost in the first round too, to Texas.
1997 was forgettable (except for that NIT thing).
In 1998, the team won the inaugural Big Ten tournament, drew a #3-seed then promptly lost in the second round of The Big Dance.
Then came the Dark Decade (11 years to be exact). Some decent players passed through the program including Jamal Crawford, but every March was like a raging frat party Michigan fans were never invited to.
So John Beilien came aboard in 2008, and in his second season, a #10-seeded team beat Clemson in the Tourney before falling to Blake Griffin's Oklahoma.
You will read plenty of copy on the emergence of Mitch McGary. The star quality of Trey Burke. The grit of Spike Albrecht, the intangibles of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford.
You might not read about a two-time townie who finds himself a bit non-plussed by everything's that's going on.
Being dialed-in for so long takes its toll. A notion that surely will not resound with Michigan's diehard fan base.
Ann Arbor is one of America's most livable cities, great place to go to school or raise a family. Be careful not to romanticize your past though or your existence may seem cramped. This is for the undergrad currently spinning on his head in South Quad. Do it now and leave it there.
Apologies if this all smacks of urinating on the party bus. I bled Maize and Blue for so many years but the heart only has so many chambers.
The sad truth is I watched the first round game against South Dakota State, fell asleep at the wheel for the VCU game, got updates on my phone for the Kansas game until the final 2:00 when I stumbled into a bar only to see Trey Burke hit an amazing shot and listened to the Florida game on the radio.
The rest of Blue Nation should not feel so blue.
It will be a wild week in the Ace Deuce and I will defer to the pure Maize Rage of all ages.
Enjoy this moment, Ann Arborites. Let the townies commingle with the undergrads and slap fives. Snow might find its way to the ground in April but most of A2 will be too busy dreaming of glory in Hotlanta to see it.
You can't party forever, but in Ann Arbor they will certainly try.
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