cinderella /ˌsɪndəˈrelə/ adjective - one suddenly lifted from obscurity to honor or significance
This story has been written many times by many folks, but as we collectively digest what happened last night, it's important to remember where we were and where we are. I've harped on this probably 10 too many times, but this basketball team, who came off of a 2017 B1G Tournament title and was a basket from the elite 8, routinely only played to a half full Crisler. Most of the people tweeting and crowing today didn't see a game this year, definitely not in person and probably not on TV. No one was willing to bear witness to the growth process that has become signature Beilein. So many wrote this team off after falling to LSU in a high school gym in Maui, and again when they got housed at NC...and that was before December 1. The season was an even-keeled "meh" after that, with a little bit of chatter starting after they beat Sparty in EL in January. A feel-good senior day close out of upstart OSU made for a nice finish, followed by a couple road cupcakes to tune-up for NYC. Sandwiched in between those were a 20-point defeat in Nebraska, and the last time Michigan lost: an ass-handing in Evanston, at which point they seemed closer to the bubble than to having something brewing for a postseason run.
Despite floating around the bottom of the AP, they did not appear in the late February ESPN Top-25 Power Rankings (which actually shows 30 teams). They were the 5-seed in the Big Ten tournament. They crapped the bed against then 14-18 Iowa in the first round on Thursday afternoon, needing overtime to move on to Friday. Lose that game and they're probably a 5-seed in the dance. Then there was the Delaney layoff, and rough sledding in the opener in middle of the night against Montana before pulling away late. Then Michigan lost to Houston and the Man Bun, except they didn't...
After all cylinders against A&M, they slogged their way though the (literally) long arms of the Seminoles to make the Final Four. Last night, they could not have looked worse in a half. Fans looked up to see the biggest halftime deficit for the Wolverines since the 1/18 debacle in Nebraska. But they pulled it out. I'm still not sure how.
If Rhode Island was in the game on Monday, would they be Cinderella? How about Saint Mary's? I would think so. And they're on a list of the most powerful from less than 6-weeks ago. So are 29 other teams that are watching from home.
A forgotten team with little support. A style of play that isn't particularly entertaining to watch. Outside of a second-team all Big Ten nod to Wagner, nary an award winner on the squad. If there was an NCAA basketball fantasy draft, there would be 6-men and 7-men selected before you'd see a Wolverine hit the board. No names. No one-and-dones. Just a group of dudes, picking each other up as necessary, going to the National Championship Game. Sounds like Cinderella to me.
In addition to not having any ability to dissect basketball matchups, I don't have a very good track record when talking about "the next game." In short, when we do a preview, Michigan loses. From App State to Michigan State, it is a jinx I believe in. So we can talk about Monday on Tuesday. For now, this is to be enjoyed.