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Westsider Rider

Thursday, December 15, 2005

It's about time

The Basketball team is starting to get some props as we are now the highest vote getting team not ranked in the AP and Coaches Polls. Daniel Horton was even on the front page of ESPN's College Basketball Section yesterday. There's a good article on the team that can be read here. Although we're not quite back to where we once were this beginning of the re-emergence of Michigan basketball has been long awaited. It's been a difficult time as the team consistently failed to meet expectations whether it was due to sanctions, injuries, suspensions and anything else that could have gone wrong which it did. We still have a long way to go but Saturday can be a nice springboard to that start.

I grew up with the Fab Five, the baggy shorts, the black socks and that was one of my first images of Michigan that I remember. When I first arrived at Michigan the downward trend was already in effect but there was hope on the horizon. Incoming as freshman the same class as I was were five highly touted recruits that were supposed to help bring Michigan to prominence. Headed by Gatorade National Player of the Year Lavell Blanchard along with Jamal Crawford, Kevin Gaines, Gavin Groninger and Leland Anderson. As soon as basketball tickets went on sale that year I immediately bought my seats and was ready for the return of Michigan basketball back to where it belonged. The season started out good, couldn't really complain about the loss to Duke, we played them tough, although they did get a very questionable intentional foul call at the end of the game. Then kept rolling along until the battle with Michigan State was to take place except when Jamal Crawford came out not in uniform and the season just went down from there. Ended the season 15-14 with a loss to Notre Dame in the NIT and just adds to the reasons why I can't stand the domers along with Troy Murphy. This is what Crisler looked like that year, I can actually point myself out in this picture.

Then came another disappointing 10-18 season but the positive was Brian Ellerbee was gone as coach. Change was definitely needed and I still can't believe that I used to walk from 1700 Geddes all the way down to Crisler for all the home games, over 3 miles round trip in the cold Michigan winter to watch a 10 win ballclub. In came Tommy Amaker, and although I hate Duke, I thought it was a great hire. He didn't really show it to us his first year but what can you do when we had to dismissal or transfer of Josh Moore, Maurice Searight, Kevin Gaines and Avery Queen come to the top of my head. We just didn't have much talent and it definitely showed with an 11-18 record . At this downtime the Maize Rage was formally created as a student organization. There wasn't that much enthusiasm for basketball at the time but we knew that could change and we wanted to help turn it around.

Things were getting slightly better as I headed into my senior year with another highly touted recruiting class coming in headed by McDonald's All-American Daniel Horton along with Lester Abram, Chris Hunter and Graham Brown. Then came the bomb, the NCAA was giving us a postseason ban due to the fallout from the Ed Martin scandal. What a way to end college, with a team that wouldn't even get to play in a postseason tournament, I was devasted, I can't even imagine what the players went through. The team didn't react to it very well and it showed with an 0-6 start in what looked like a season that was going down the tubes. But then it happened, a 13 game winning streak with big wins at UCLA, definitely a big one for me, the win against Wisconsin where we overcame a 15 point lead in the last 5:36 and capped by the win over Michigan State. The season didn't end as well as we would've liked but it was still a memorable one.

The following year after I graduated we were a bubble team that didn't make it but ended up winning the NIT which was ok but it still wasn't the big dance. Last year was the year the big jump was finally supposed to occur but with the numerous injuries/suspensions we couldn't get much done. Which leads us to this year where we're currently 7-0 and ready take on the #14 UCLA Bruins on Saturday. It will definitely be our toughest test to date but I think we can get it done and would be very disappointed if we walked away with a L. The team has shown it can win on the road and is beating teams easily that they should, two things that have been missing in recent seasons. But now we have our first big time opponent of the year and we need to make the statement that we are coming back, the Michigan Wolverines will be a team to be reckoned with this season and in the future. From my freshman year picture above, there has been a great turnaround from the team and also from the atmosphere at Crisler which was always so lacking. Now Crisler looks like this:

It's great to know I was part of the beginning when we barely had any fan support or anything. I know we still can do better and we're well on our way, it starts on Saturday with a big win over UCLA. Let's Go Blue!

Update: Look who's in the ESPN Power 16. Now we need to back it up.


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