There is no question about it. The Michigan Wolverines deserve this national championship.
But, wait, this team? Even after losing to Pennsylvania State at the end of the regular season?
Yes. But, it’s a lot deeper than this team.
Inside the Crisler Center, there are banners that hang. Just like every other school, there are banners that mean little and there are banners that mean more than words can explain. For Michigan Basketball, there is one banner in particular that hangs. It reads “NCAA National Champions” and underneath the words is the year 1989.
A national championship banner is something special. Emotion, pride, glory, joy and memories frozen in time live in every single stitch. It is the immediate cop out in a debate or argument. It’s what fans resort to when they have nothing else to say when they banter with rival fans. We all do it. We start railing off championships and final fours like verbal daggers trying to cut the person’s words short and end the conversation.
Sometimes it’s that deep; how many banners hang in your favorite school’s arena or stadium? Or maybe, the real question is how many banners should be hanging in your favorite school’s arena or stadium?
What is remembered more than those national championships? What could possibly linger with a true fan more than the night his or her team was crowned No.1? More often than not, losing the big game and the depressing, restless and sleepless night that follows immediately after will haunt fans for a very long time.
But, what if there was more to it? For Michigan, there is so much more to it.
Alongside that 1989 national champions banner in the Crisler Center, there used to hang two NCAA final four banners from 1992 and 1993.
Of course, the NCAA would rather we not talk about that. No, don’t mention the words “Fab Five” or the name Chris Webber along with statements like “he got away with a travel on the inbound” or “Webber called a timeout and Michigan doesn’t have any left”.
Because that “never” happened, right?
For 20 years Wolverines fans have looked up at those rafters wondering “what if” while talented Michigan teams have continued to fall short of the second round of the NCAA tournament every year since the ’93-94 season (Which doesn’t exist, remember?).
Two vacant, haunting spots teasing fans year-in and year-out. While that isn’t already enough to try and shake from your memory, ESPN comes out with a 30 for 30 about the Fab Five.
The Wolverines have suffered. Two years in a row the Wolverines lost in the national championship game. That is hard enough to move on from but even harder when the NCAA determines those years didn’t exist.
Michigan basketball, under an identity synonymous with success and final four appearances, has not existed. For 20 years now there has only been one identity.
The Fab Five, Chris Webber’s late game blunder and scandal.
Tonight isn’t about the young men on the court for the Wolverines.
No. Tonight isn’t about the BIG Ten and national player of the year Trey Burke. It’s not about freshman Mitch McGary and his key role in the Wolverines success nor is it about Tim Hardaway Jr. and how he and Burke are quite possibly the most dangerous back court in the nation.
Tonight is about a school and a program that are still trying to clear their names from the past the way the NCAA cleared their name from regular season and tournament records. Tonight the Wolverines don’t just win this one for this team and this season.
Tonight, if Michigan wins the national championship, they win it in front of fans and alumni and for students back in Ann Arbor that have waited 20 years to finally put the ghosts of Michigan’s troubled past to bed so that ’92 and ’93 won’t hurt as much.
They are hoping it won’t sting as much as it used to because back in Ann Arbor, MI at the Crisler Center there will be two banners. One will read “NCAA National Champions 1989” and the other the same except this one will say 2012 underneath. Then finally, after everything the maize and blue has been through, when we think of Michigan Wolverines basketball we won’t think of the 90’s and the Fab Five.
This national championship means more to Michigan because it is bigger than Michigan. Tonight, the Wolverines can re-write the legacy of Michigan Basketball forever.