As of late, the Michigan Wolverines have controlled their own destiny – so why not them?
Let’s take a second to step back in time. Late January was moving into early February, and the Michigan basketball team had just lost to Ohio State at home, a game they should of had no business losing.
At least, that’s what you would think now.
Back then, it wasn’t such a shock that Michigan lost that game. They were a team that could hang around, had a lot of talent, but when it came to playing down the stretch, the Wolverines didn’t have the answers.
Michigan was 14-9 overall and 4-6 in the Big Ten. Just another “average” to “weak” team in the conference, who would be lucky to get into the National Invitational Tournament (NIT), much less the NCAA Tournament.
Be honest with yourself, if you’re a Michigan fan, you didn’t believe in them at this time. No one did. John Beilein had people calling for his head, and he had to figure out how he could change that.
Now, here we are heading into the late days of March Madness, and the only concern Beilein has is how he is going to get his team ready in a quick turnaround to play Oregon in the Sweet 16 on Thursday.
While everyone else in the country was busy doubting them, Michigan didn’t let the noise enter their sound barriers. Instead they blocked it out, and has half of the country playing their tune.
The Wolverines had another come from behind win on Sunday against Louisville in a rematch of the 2013 national title game in the Georgia Dome. Michigan edged the Cardinals 73-69, making them 8-0 in tournament play this season (Big Ten Tournament, 2K Classic, and the NCAA Tournament).
In a game where Louisville clearly had the height and length advantage, out-rebounding Michigan 37-30, the Wolverines couldn’t just kick back and rely on Derrick Walton Jr. like they have on this tournament run. Michigan needed its bigs to show up.
We’ve seen a common theme for Michigan during tournament play — when a player gets their number called, they answer.
Moe Wagner and D.J. Wilson combined for 43 of Michigan’s 73 points to lead the Wolverines to another victory that they weren’t expected to get. The Berlin, Germany native scored 26 of those points, a career high, on 11-for-14 shooting and one attempted 3-pointer (he made it).
Why the sudden change?
You can try and find an answer as to why this team is suddenly playing the way it is, but there isn’t a clear solution. Many will point to the players only meeting after the “white-collared” comment, and others will say the plane crash is what allowed this team the extra mile to become even more of a family.
However, if you ask any player on the Michigan basketball roster, they will all give you the same three-worded answer.
“Why not us?”
Why not Michigan? Why not the team who has now won 12 of their last 14 games? Why not the team who has eight of those 12 wins against teams who are or were in the NCAA Tournament?
After getting in the plane crash, Michigan was four games away from being Big Ten Champions, and they went out and got that. Now, they are just four wins away from being National Champions.
So go back in time and think about the team that was 14-9 before you fast-forward to today and think about where this Michigan team is at. Michigan once looked like a team that was being held back by something that no one could really put their finger on to decode. Now, Michigan looks like a team that is off and running.
Where the tunnel ends is completely on the Wolverines’ shoulders, but what team has been able to stop them as of late? So yeah, why not them? No one has that answer besides themselves.