The Michigan Wolverines are back in the Big Dance

Posted by Christopher Packey in , , , ,

The 65 team 2009 NCAA men's basketball tournament bracket was announced today, and the University of Michigan is in the field once again. Michigan faithful have been anxiously awaiting their school's return to the Big Dance, as U-M had been left dateless every March since 1998, left to eat Ben and Jerry's by the pint, watch chick flicks, yap mindlessly on the phone, and commiserate with its ugly friend Northwestern. Sure, Northwestern lets Michigan braid its hair, can keep a secret like nobody's business, and its parents have a really nice house, but frankly, Michigan was getting sick of having to hear Northwestern complain about the jocks and the cheerleaders, and if Northwestern moaned one more time that "Life just isn't fair" in that whiny, woe-is-me voice... Plus, Northwestern has bad breath and is way too gassy.

But Michigan will be at the Dance on Thursday. And I'm talking about the real dance at the high school, not the "dance" at the nursing home down the road, (better known as the NIT), which Michigan has been invited to by grandma a few times, (and they've been a big hit with the diapers and dentures crowd, I might add- they won the NIT in 2004 and lost to South Carolina in the 2006 NIT finals.) Sure, Michigan won't be the most popular attraction at the Dance, but it will be there. It will be wearing braces and its older sister's dress that is straight out of Molly Ringwald's wardrobe in Sixteen Candles, but it will be there.

And it's about time Michigan was invited to the Big Dance, really. Most people think that the University of Michigan is predominantly a football school, but its men's basketball program has a rich history. The Wolverines have been to six Final Fours, three national championship games, and won a national championship in 1989. How about this for a stat: In the last 20 years only five schools have made it to three national championship games in men's basketball: Duke, Florida, Kentucky, Kansas... and the University of Michigan.

Coach John Beilien has had a lot to do with the resurgence of Michigan basketball. Beilien is only in his second season as the U-M coach, yet his influence has already been demonstrated in the stretch run of big games. Unlike teams from the Amaker and Ellerbee eras, Beilien's 2008-'09 Michigan team kept its composure and stuck with its game plan when playing on the road, and when playing top competition. This allowed them to beat #4 Duke and #4 UCLA, and to lead tourney #1 seed UConn in Storrs for much of the game. Most importantly, when Michigan had to win a game at Minnesota in the last game of the season to earn their bid, a place they have rarely won at in the past, they overcame adversity and a 12 point deficit late in the game to win. Beilein is the only coach to have won 20 games at four different levels of college basketball, and we are seeing why he has been able to win at every level. Finally, we can thank the state of West Virginia for something other than Don Knotts, George Brett and some kick-ass white water rapids. The jury's still out on Rich Rod, but as we've seen with Coach Beilien, putting your system into place and getting your type of players take at least a year.

So Michigan is the #10 seed in the South Region, and faces #7 Clemson from the Atlantic Coast Conference in a first round game on Thursday. Michigan is a young team, led by sophomore Manny Harris and junior Deshawn Sims (below).

The future is bright for Michigan basketball. Their top 6 players are all underclassmen, and three of them are freshmen: clutch Zach Novak, sharp-shooting Stu Douglass, and Laval Lucas-Perry, who single-handedly got U-M back into the season finale at Minnesota by knocking down several big shots. With the football team in Ann Arbor being left out of the bowl season for the first time in 34 years, the rise of the Michigan basketball team couldn't have come at a better time.

BallHype: hype it up!


John, every time you write it is like Shakespeare having sex with Courvoisier!......Thank you!

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