Editors Note: Our tailgate buddy Jeff offered to fire y'all up while I eat and drink my way through Atlanta. Thanks Jeff! You always have a place here as long as you continue the Shane jokes :)
I can't imagine I'm the only one that has pinched myself several times in the past 36 hours to make sure I'm not dreaming. Say it with me - Michigan is playing for the national championship tonight. 24 days ago they were bounced in the second round of the Big Ten tourney by a Wisconsin squad featuring a 6'6" white power forward sporting a Jew fro. Yet here they are... 8 days into the month of April... still standing amongst the corpses of Sparty, OSU, and Indiana... ascending Mt. Everest with the entire B1G on their back. Let us all take a collective deep breath and reflect upon on how we got to where we are...
That back-of-your-mind fear of repeating last year's first-round exit was laid to rest after we calmly took care of the Jackrabbits. Next came VCU, coached by tourney-legend Shaka Smart, fresh off a 46-point beatdown of Akron (that shitty school from that shittier state) in which they caused 21 turnovers with smothering defense. In 36 hours, Beilein and Co. devised and executed a gameplan that broke the full-court press and went straight for the jugular. More importantly, the potential of #4 was finally showcased. The freshman from Indiana grew from boy to man in 40 minutes, dropping 21 points, 14 rebounds, and nearly taking Briente Weber's head off with a clean pick that showed the nation that we aren't intimidated by physical play. We'll knock you on your ass, beat you by 25, and let our bench play out the final minute... you know, just to pour some salt in the wound.
Then came Kansas. For 37 minutes we were broken, battered, and beaten by an older, more experienced, and seemingly better team. But then... well, we all know what happened next. Then we cruised through Florida and sent the nation a message that we belong in the Final Four. We beat Syracuse and the "untouchable" 2-3 zone (thank you, Zack Novak, for teaching
Morgan how to take a charge). We're one game away from giving the new Crisler Center it's finishing touch - a banner. Let that sink in for a moment. Teams don't get this far by accident. A six-round, 64-team tournament is a fool-proof way to determine the best team in any given sport. Period. The team that wins five straight games against elite programs, at neutral sites, and with little preparation deserves to be right where we've found ourselves: playing for the 'Ship.
We're on to something here. I'll never forget the '98 Rose Bowl. I'll never forget when Tayshaun blocked Reggie, when Henne hit Manningham to beat PSU, when Denard found Roundtree to beat Notre Dame... and I'll never forget where I was when Trey hit that 30-footer.
And neither will you.
Why? Because in the end, that shot will not be a bittersweet memory of a tournament run that ended in a loss at the hands of Louisville. Instead it will be the highlight of a soon-to-be-released DVD summarizing our championship that you'll dust off in the future to show your grandchildren. We'll all gather 'round at tailgate, pointing and laughing at the "WE ON" tattoo that Shane will inevitably get sometime this week. You'll tell stories about this team, about how talented each player was, and how they managed to gel at the perfect time. The best point guard in the nation... the high-flying swingmen, Hardaway and Robinson... the Canadian sharpshooter... and McGary, the frosh that fuels the fire. They will all climb the ladder and cut down a piece of the nets tonight. I know it.
And so do you.
Why? Because you didn't turn the Kansas game off with less than 7 minutes left facing a 14-point deficit. Or even with 21 seconds left and still needing 5 points... to tie. It's because you know this team is special. It's because we have Trey fucking Burke. Trey is a killer. Trey will rip your heart out. If you give Trey an opening, he will kill you. Nobody goes for the kill like Trey. Trey will eat your liver and cap it off with a glass of Chianti. You can have the hall-of-fame coach, the tournament experience, and the motivation to win it for a guy who would be irrelevant if not for having the weakest right leg in the history of sports... I'll take #3 all day. And if he doesn't show up? Timmy will. Or Nik. Or Mitch. Hell, even Spike will bury a three in your face. And if he misses? Glenn will clean up the glass. Rinse and repeat for 40 minutes. Game... Blouses.
They've worn the shirts all season, but now they truly know that good things happen when everyone operates in sync. As an added insurance, their jerseys are maize and blue, thus giving them the same x-factor that helped our football team beat Notre Dame under the lights, and more recently Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. It's a sort of arrog... er... confidence that only comes from putting on the jersey and representing the greatest university in the country.
Keep calm, and beat the piss out of the Cardinals.