Hail to the Victors. It’s about time. The Men’s Swimming and Diving Team is Number One in the nation. Michigan has a strong history in swimming and diving with several national championships and Olympic gold medalists.
Our fight song is The Victors. We celebrate all our champions: men and women’s, individual and team, hockey, baseball, softball, swimming, diving, ice dancing, golf, gymnastics, rowing, tennis, trampoline, wrestling, track and field, and yes, football and basketball. Volleyball and lacrosse will have their day. We celebrate the champion solar car teams.
Hail to the Victors.
Oh yes, men’s basketball is currently ranked first in one poll. Coach John Beilein apparently shares the views of Bo Schembecher; the only poll that matters is the one at the end of the season.
We know deep down that Michigan is a football school, and that basketball is like Rip Van Winkle. The team wakes up every 20 years. Michigan was last number one in 1992, the era of the Fab Five, the era tainted by Ed Martin and the forfeited victories, followed by wandering the basketball wilderness. Tommy Amaker raised the team from basketball death between 2001 and 2007, but he stalled out with a 108-84 record and no NCAA appearances. Some of his losses were blowouts, too painful to watch.
John Beilen came from West Virginia 6 years ago, and therein lies a lesson for athletic directors. His team went 10-22 his first year.
He needed six years to restore Michigan to basketball prominence.
Most AD’s would have pulled the plug after 3-4 years. Michigan stuck with Beilein because he was a winner, the team had to be rebuilt, recruiting was difficult with the aged facilities and limited scholarships, and he was chair of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Ethics Coalition.
Slowly he rebuilt the program in his image, and molded the players he could recruit. His teams were undersized, often playing four guards and a forward. Two of the guards would masquerade as small forwards and the actual forward would be center. DeShawn Sims at 6’8” playing center was a sight to behold.
Coach Beilein’s Wolverines might have been short in height and depth, but never overmatched in intensity. His teams played a tight defense, often with an unconventional 1-3-1 zone to compensate for the lack of height.
He took the team to the NCAA’s the second year, but then slipped to 15-17 his third year. Upsets over highly ranked Duke and UCLA, and victories over stronger rivals Michigan State and Ohio State excited the fan base.
The pieces slowly fell into place, always keyed around an underappreciated point guard coming out of high school. First came Manny Harris, then Darius Morris, and now Trey Burke. Burke’s numbers, ppg and assists, are being compared to another sophomore great in the basketball history of the state of Michigan, Magic Johnson, who is 8 inches taller than the 6’ tall Burke.
Magic’s Michigan State Spartans won the NCAA. Will Trey’s Michigan team follow?
Other players started showing up, including the sons of NBA greats. This year five freshmen are seeing significant playing time with two starting. The players play as a team, not an assemblage of talented, self-centered individuals.
Beilein can recruit, and Michigan wins.
Beilein can coach, and Michigan wins.
Michigan wins, the games sellout in the rebuilt facilities, and the AD smiles.
Success breeds success.
Success builds confidence,which wins games.
The games are exciting to watch, but let’s not get overly excited yet. No team has yet stayed at number I this season for long. Michigan plays at Indiana Saturday night and still plays Ohio State again and Michigan State twice.
The odds are that Michigan will collect at least one more loss in the Big Ten and drop out of the top spot. The final game March 8 is the one that matters.
Men’s swimming and diving might also lose a meet, but Hail to the Victors.