They weren’t even supposed to be in this game. Of all the highly touted teams from the Big 10 that had much more going on for them, the Michigan Wolverines were the unlikely team to rise from college basketball’s Midwestern power conference.
Congratulations are in order for the Louisville Cardinals, but after the nation watched the underdog team from Ann Arbor push them to the brink, it was we, the fans of college hoops, that came out the big winners.
From the opening seconds of the game, the Wolverines took it to the Cardinals. It wasn’t just a freak start, however: Michigan kept coming. We watched as a blazing first half of basketball went into hyper-space and put us on the edge of our recliner seats.
The Cardinals had it all going into this game. They, like Michigan, had briefly held the No. 1 ranking during the regular season. They had the sport’s latest folk hero in Kevin Ware, who suffered a gruesome broken leg yet had the inner strength to inspire his team instead of feeling sorry for himself. Their coach, Rick Pitino had been voted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame earlier in the day.
The Wolverines, who had a team of sons of former college greats who went on to careers in the NBA, were unimpressed by Louisville’s resume. They came to win and played their guts out to the final buzzer. They went toe-to-toe with the Cardinals and even had the eventual champs on their heels.
Often is the team who loses in the championship game in any sport quickly forgotten, but we should applaud the Michigan Wolverines — not just for defying the odds and making it farther in the tournament than conference rivals Indiana and Ohio State, who were expected to be in their place in Georgia, but for putting on a show that fans of college basketball have come to appreciate.