Is John Beilein Waking Michigan's Sleeping Giant?

Chris ScheiCorrespondent IDecember 18, 2008

In every college sport, there are programs that are considered "sleeping giants." A sleeping giant is a proud and storied program that has been in bad shape. That definition has summed up the Michigan Wolverines basketball program perfectly.

Former Michigan coach Tommy Amaker brought the program back to respectability, winning the NIT and falling just short of the NCAA tournament numerous times. But after a lot of chances, he was fired.

Enter John Beilein from West Virginia. He convinced Manny Harris to stay true to his commitment to Michigan after highly touted commit Alex Legion asked to be released from his. In his freshman season, Harris made sure Michigan fans knew they had a reason to watch them during a dismal 10-22 season. Coach Beilein was patient with his young team, letting them take their lumps through last year.

During the offseason, Michigan fans knew there would be progress coming into this year, having added sharpshooter Stu Douglass and hard-nosed Zak Novak to the team through recruiting. No one expected Michigan to jump out of the gate and beat then fourth-ranked UCLA on a neutral floor.

This team still had plenty of critics, saying that UCLA isn't nearly the team that has been to consecutive Final Fours. Many Michigan fans (including this one) said fair enough. UCLA isn't as good as their ranking indicated. But the Michigan basketball program had its spark.

Then came a loss to Maryland in a hard-fought five-point game, and many still didn't know what to make of this team. Maryland had beaten Michigan State by 18, so there was reason for optimism.

Then came Duke. At the sold-out madhouse that was Crisler Arena, Michigan sent a message—we're back. Remember all of the fun people had poking fun at us while we were down? I hope it was fun, because those days just may well be over.

Former NBA great Tim Hardaway and his son, who Michigan is recruiting, were at the game vs. Duke. After Michigan's win, Hardaway and his son did the same thing John Beilein did. They both had huge, beaming smiles on their faces and said, "Isn't this somethin'?"

With a solid recruiting class already in place for next year, including two of's top 150, the fun we have this year may pale in comparison to next season—if DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris don't go to the NBA.

Yes, I may be getting ahead of myself. Or maybe John Beilein shook the sleeping giant just enough to wake him up.