By Jamie Samuelsen
I’m not sure that any losing team ever made a greater statement in the history of the NCAA Tournament.
History will show that Michigan lost to Louisville 82-76 in the National Championship game in Atlanta. And I highly doubt that John Beilein or Trey Burke or anyone involved with Michigan basketball will take any solace in the fact that they put on a hell of a show against Louisville.
But make no mistake; Monday was a great night for Michigan. I’m not trying to say it was any sort of moral victory. Michigan was good enough to win that game and will look back on plenty of turning points with regret. And I’m certainly not trying to find any silver lining. This team will never get this opportunity again.
But this program might. Because this program is officially back on the map.
If you were a high school kid who wants to play big time college basketball, why wouldn’t you want to go to Michigan now?
Along with Louisville, the Wolverines put on the most entertaining title game in recent memory. The end-to-end action was a reminder of why we all became college basketball fans in the first place. In this day and age of coaching giants who love to put their imprint on every aspect of every game, how much fun is it that two teams went out there and went at it for 40 minutes? Basketball is supposed to be fun. And Michigan basketball is fun again.
But basketball is also about making a name for yourself, and Michigan is once again allowing young players to become stars.
Burke will most likely depart as one of the most decorated players in Michigan history. He won every Player of the Year award imaginable and hit perhaps the most memorable shot in school history against Kansas.
Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III would be wise to return next year. If they do, they’ll be the stars of another title contender. And if they do, their draft stock should only rise with another year under Beilein.
And Mitch McGary will most likely return for his sophomore year fresh off one of the most impressive tournaments in memory. Four weeks ago, McGary was an unpolished bench player. But today, you’d have to say that he was the MVP for Michigan during their run to the final game.
And even Spike Albrecht made a name for himself with 17 points in the first half. Most of America had never heard of Albrecht when the game started. Midway through the first half, he was trending world-wide on Twitter.
Michigan was a great story. And Michigan was full of great stories. Burke is a transcendent player and some feared that his departure would mean the end of this nice, brief run for Michigan basketball. But I doubt it. Not with Beilein. Not with the tradition that the university holds. And not with the show that Michigan put on throughout this tournament, even in a loss to Louisville.
Players make a program. And players will come to Michigan. Some will want to be the next Trey Burke or the next Mitch McGary. Some will want to take part in one of the most exciting offenses in the nation. And some will want to finish the mission that these players started.
Monday night was a setback and a disappointment. But Monday was also a massive infomercial for what Michigan basketball is and what it will continue to be. And that is a very encouraging development if you’re a Wolverine fan.