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It’s like I’m 12 years old again…

April 11, 2013

Trey Kansas

I’ll preface this entire post with the disclaimer that I in no way feel old enough to be able to play the “I feel like a kid again” card in regard to anything.

That being said – I was 9 years old when Rumeal Robinson hit two free throws in the Kingdome when Michigan won it’s only national title in 1989.

I can still remember shooting hoops in my driveway on a March day three years later when the local radio announced that Michigan had signed one of the best recruiting classes in NCAA history.

I went to Michigan basketball camp the following summer and caught an open practice with the Fab Five.  I even played on a team that summer with Chris Webber’s younger brother David.

One of my first memories of Michigan basketball actually involved going to a game at the Breslin Center in East Lansing where an MSU fan dropped an f-bomb at my Dad and then refused to apologize and instead insulted my father again.  (Some things never change)

I’ve read Mitch Albom’s book on Jalen, Juwan, Jimmy, Chris and Ray cover to cover enough times that the binding is falling apart.

I owned a pair of authentic Fab Five shorts, black shoes and black socks. (Nobody had informed I was going to top out at 5’7″ at that point in my life.)

I remember staying up late during December break the year Michigan won the Maui Invitational beating North Carolina, Kansas and Nebraksa (all ranked teams) on three consecutive nights.

I also remember being distraught over the 2nd half vs. Duke in 1992 and Webber’s timeout in 1993.

Names like Leon Derricks, Bobby Crawford, Robbie Reid, Maceo Baston, Maurice Taylor, Albert White, Willie Green, Jerod Ward, Robert Traylor, Louis Bullock, Olivier St. Jean, Mahktar Ndiaye, and Travis Conlan all hold a special, but empty space in my heart.

During my formative years of 1989 – 1994, Michigan won a National Title, went to 2 National Title games and an Elite 8 in a 6 year span.  The NCAA record during that time was a ridiculous 20-4.  We were the boys of March.

And then….nothing.  For almost 20 years, the best Michigan could muster was a second round NCAA exit.  And that’s even when we were lucky enough to make the tournament.  So yeah, the past three weeks absolutely brought back memories of my youth, and what it is like to be a kid again.  And the unbridled joy that accompanies your team making an NCAA Tourney run.

March has always belonged to Rumeal Robinson, Glen Rice, Terry Mills, Loy Vaught, Sean Higgins, Mark Hughes, Mike Griffin, Demetrius Calip and the rest of the 1989 team.  Sean Higgins put back against Illinois and Rumeal’s free throws have always been the signature moments of Michigan basketball.

March was also a time for the Fab Five and guys like Eric Riley and James Voskuil, who stepped to make big time plays and remind us that no matter how good the Fabs were, sometimes teams can’t rely on freshmen alone.

And now I get to add Team 96 to that list.  Sure the script has been flipped a bit and I no longer “look up” to these athletes like I did as an adolescent.  But for someone who couldn’t get enough Michigan basketball when he was 12, the last three weeks were still just as much fun as I remember.

Yes, they came up the tiniest bit short in their quest for permanent glory in the national lexicon.  But they exceeded all expectations for any Michigan fan who has been yearning for a winner.  The Michigan memory book can now add Trey’s “shot”, Spike’s Teen Wolf impersonation, Nik’s 6 for 6, and Mitch’s coming out party to things like Rumeal’s Free Throws and the Fab Five’s black socks and shaved heads.

I loved watching this team and have enough experience to know that things like this don’t come around all that often.  When I was 13 I just assumed that this would be the norm.  I now know that’s not always the case and you have to appreciate greatness when you see it.  So a final thank you to the 2013 Michigan Wolverines who made me feel like a kid again.

And a quick final postscript on the game…

Even though the game didn’t come down to a final shot, there’s a reason almost every national pundit is calling this one of the best title games of the last 25 years.  Monday night had two teams filled with potential pro players, playing some of their best basketball.  And even a couple of guys who will never play in the NBA who were playing above their heads.  Sure there was some head scratching officiating that probably impacted the game, but 48 hours later, that storyline should be forgotten.

Because this game had two great coaches who had their teams well prepared.  It had stars delivering when it mattered.  It also had fast breaks, and good shooting, and free flowing offense (a rarity these days).  But most importantly it had two teams.  It was clear that both Michigan and Louisville were cohesive units who played for each other.  Everytime Michigan made a run, Louisville would match it.  Everytime Louisville tried to pull away, Michigan wouldn’t let them.  In the end, it just turned out that Louisville’s A game was just a little better than Michigan’s.  Sometimes you just get beat.  But from a fan’s perspective it was fantastic to see two heavyweights (and yes, Michigan is once again a heavyweight) going at it for the title.

Through 3 weeks and 244 minutes and 45 seconds of basketball, this was as much fun as I’ve had watching sports in years.  Even when it was apparent with 15 seconds left that Michigan wouldn’t win, I didn’t feel the least bit cheated.  This team gave us our money’s worth, and then some.   

So when does Midnight Madness start?

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