It was a buyer's market outside of Crisler tonight. Turns out Purdue was the freebie end of a buy-one get-one promo put on by the masterminds in the athletic department several weeks ago. Average Joe-the-Sometimes-Fan sat home listening to the rain while holding a free ticket, pondering whether or not to make the trip to Crisler, akin to Cameron sitting in the car trying to decide if he should go pick up Ferris Bueller. The combination of fan indifference and the students on Spring Break left a good amount of empty seats despite the SOLD OUT sign in the window by the ticket office. We had six people, one ticket. And while one guy was trying to sell his upper deck seats for double face value, there were people next to him passing out their extras like flyers in the diag. Well, maybe it wasn't that easy. But we all got in...to a "sold out" game...for a grand total of zero dollars. I think I even spotted Brian Cook mulling around outside the arena, but you can never know with all the kids sporting the bearded long-haired "Cook Look" these days.
Senior night. Pay your respects. JeVohn Shepherd, CJ Lee, and David Merritt...ya, not really an all-star cast send off, but we've had worse. We've said goodbyes to Sherrod Harrell and Hayes Grooms before. But never before have we wanted so badly to say goodbye. Not because of the caliber of the senior players, who against the odds not only found playing time but played integral roles, but because we have no desire to see these guys play another game in Crisler. Seeing Shepherd, Merritt, and Lee at Crisler again means NIT, and we want something else.
We took a giant step toward the dance today, perhaps even taking the edge off of the Iowa debacle. Though after tonight if Iowa were not the crapfest it was, we would be talking "seeds" instead of "ifs". Despite the score, and despite the free throw chokes, we owned Purdue tonight. Minus the bullshit charge call early (5-point swing in my book) and the front-end free throw follies of CJ Lee, this one wasn't close. We even outplayed them in a category that we are basement dwellers in: rebounding. Michigan 27, Purdue 24 on the boards.
Lost in the shuffle of goodbyes and top-25 upsets, was Manny Harris. Manny joined legendary names like Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Phil Hubbard, Mike McGee and Louis Bullock, becoming on the 6th sophomore in Michigan Basketball history to eclipse the 1000 point mark. Manny went for 27 tonight, and Sims chipped in 29. The big two did what they were supposed to, and a more diverse supporting cast (10 players scored) made key plays at key times. That's the type of lineup that beat Duke and UCLA. That's the recipe for victory here.
After some moans and groans due to foul shooting (Purdue began fouling at the 4 minute mark BTW) the clock finally reached zero, and the team gave what they hope to be their final send off to the Crisler crowd. The gathered at center court and led the room in a rousing chorus of The Victors.
There are a lot of opportunities left. Two tough road games, of which winning one is paramount. And the Big Ten tournament, which can make us on a Saturday or a Sunday, or break us on a Thursday.
I was happy to be there, and I'm even happier that WE are here. I love this bubble.
Shock the world.