8,774 days. At the time of this writing, that is exactly how many days it has been since the University of Michigan Wolverines had won their one and only national championship. It is safe to assume that most fans of the maize and blue have had to deal with an endless amount of frustration and anger toward this team during those 8,774 days.
Ever since Chris Webber’s infamous timeout cost the Wolverines the 1993 championship, Michigan has seen a dip in quality as far as recruiting and promise that has haunted them for two decades. Yet through all the torture and disappointment, Michigan fans have been nothing but incredibly faithful. As they patiently waited through years of mediocrity, which included 24 years in which the Wolverines tallied only 11 NCAA tournament appearances, Michigan fans were ecstatic to see the team’s 2012-2013 team begin to shine.
After a promising freshman campaign from Trey Burke plus the recruitment of Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas, Michigan earned themselves a top-five ranking coming in to the 2012-2013 season filling the hearts of faithful fans with hope, and the team did not disappoint. Finishing the season with a 26-7 record, the Wolverines earned themselves a number-four ranking in their region heading in to March Madness.
Cries of “This is our year, I can feel it,” filled the minds of eager fans across the mitten, myself included, and as the Wolverines stunningly took down team after team in the tournament (which included a 87-85 overtime shocker over number one in the region Kansas) those thoughts nearly came to life. With Michigan State and Ohio State out of the fold early, Michigan fans already had a lot to rejoice as Michigan fans across the state finally were able to verbally spit in the face of MSU and OSU fans, but the ultimate goal was not yet achieved.
The Wolverines had a tough road ahead as they had to go up against the number one overall seed Louisville in the championship game. Though Michigan carried a promising lead to begin the game, the Cardinals of Louisville not only showed up to play in the second half, but also provided plenty of pride for the tremendous mascot they have, defeating Michigan 82-76 to take all the marbles.
This was a crushing blow for fans of the maize and blue. After 24 years without a championship, only coming close once during that span and losing on a technicality, this was supposed to be the year of the Wolverine as far as men’s basketball. The team boasted the national player of the year in 20-year-old sophomore Burke, huge improvements in the paint with the additions of McGary and Robinson III, and a strong development in three-point shooting from Stauskas and fellow freshman Spike Albrecht. This formula seemed to be kicking on all cylinders heading in to the final game but questionable coaching decisions and foul trouble led to confusion on the court for the Wolverines.
Even with all the disappointment and heartbreak surrounding this game, it is really difficult for me to be upset about it. Sure it was the first real opportunity to take the national championship since the unforgettable Webber timeout, but this tournament run is one that shows promise moving forward for the Wolverines and gives the state of Michigan a reason to feel good about something again. With the disappointment of University of Michigan football as well as our state’s lack of promise in professional sports, our beloved state hasn’t had a whole lot to really feel hopeful for when it comes to sports.
Sports are a prime contributer of unity on any scale. When a state team is doing well it gives the state something to feel good about and something that allows people to come together with their neighbors or coworkers in one cohesive ball of hope and this deep post-season run by the Wolverines is no different. It is a rare event like this that joins hardcore and casual fans as well as non-sports fans alike to go through celebrations as well as heartbreak together and all the while allowing us as people to feel a little closer to one another.
Even though the team will most likely lose two of its best players in Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. to the NBA come this summer, the freshmen talent of Stauskas, Robinson III and especially McGary are enough for this team to make a good run next season which will hopefully extend this brief feeling of unity that fans have felt for the past six months.
8774 days is a long time, but fans have grown accustomed to waiting and who knows? Maybe the Wolverines have it in them to make another deep post-season run and finally fulfill all of the expectations and hopes that fans have built up for so long. Because after all, watching a team get far only to lose is one thing, but winning it all is an entirely new beast in itself.