Eric Thomas: Wolverines Made A Rival By Running Their Mouth
Wolverine fans need to start preparing themselves for NCAA tournament disaster. The selection committee, in an effort to remain hilarious, has placed UM with against a team caught in the collateral damage of the Michigan / OSU rivalry. In the first round of the tourney, Michigan will be facing Ohio.
The fact that I have to clarify who ‘Ohio’ is explains the depth of the dilemma that the Wolverines find them in. The Bobcats are not exactly a proud athletic tradition but they have busted into the tourney a couple of times. They boast a less than stellar 5-13 historical record within the brackets and a majority of visits are of the “One and done” variety.
The trouble with this game? Now pride is on the line. Selection Sunday gave the Bobcats their chance to slap back after being slapped around for over a year. Brady Hoke started referring to the Buckeyes as “Ohio” dropping the “State” from their name. No one was entirely sure why he was doing this but questions of his sanity where erased when his team beat the actual Buckeyes. Reporters asked the coach if he knew about an actual school whose name was Ohio and he brushed it off.
John Beilein grabbed that torch and ran with it, referring to OSU as “Ohio” all season. This is of course an insult. Basically demeaning a school by calling them the name of another school. So it’s doubly insulting to the Bobcats. They are certainly no fans of the Buckeyes, their instate rival.
Here is what Beilein should be worried about: They can smack back. Taking a look at the Bobcats 5 tournament wins is revealing. Sure there are plenty of “one and done” situations, but they have also managed a couple of first round upsets. In 1960 they sent Notre Dame packing in the first round. In 1983 they were seeded at #11 and sent Illinois State back home. The recent game was of course the most famous. The Greg Monroe led Hoyas looked like they had the juice to go the distance. But the #3 Hoyas fell to the Bobcats in the very first round of the tourney.
Could OU beat Michigan? In the course of researching this blog, I say yes. The Bobcats boast an aggressive defense that shuts down the 3 point game and they force turnovers on 26% of their opponents’ possessions. They are led by a tandem of veteran guards, one of them a transfer from the Buckeyes. One of the knocks against them is their lack of height (not a problem against UM) but they led the MAC in offensive rebounds.
A lot of the metrics spell disaster for Trey Burke and the gang but chief among them is this: You are facing an opponent that you slandered for a year. They may spend the week trying to calm this down but you have made a rivalry game where there needed to be none. This is my problem with the Wolverine fans these days. They lead the nation in chirping. For some reason UM is not settling into the underdog role very well.
I did not go to either school so I seriously don’t care, but it has become exceedingly easy to hate the talkative part of the Michigan fan base. I root for the underdog in most situations but not in this. Underdogs are not supposed to be chesty. Underdogs say nothing and settle it in the heat of battle. They don’t run their mouths endlessly then get chain sawed in the game. The Wolverine fan base reminds me of Leon Lett, performing the Russian kick dance at the 20 yard line before securing the ball in the end zone. Now you have to face somebody you have been running your mouth about. You have been standing next to your mother behind a screen door hollering away and now it’s time to settle this at the bus stop.
Maybe, just maybe, the first round game against the Bobcats is where the Wolverines will finally learn the consequences of constant mouth running. Ah, hope.