With an event like Michigan’s national championship appearance in the 2013 basketball season, fans will often then compare current teams to where a program was at its best standing. After the entertaining Fab Five, basketball steadily declined into a bottom-of-the-barrel type of program. However, things began to look up for the Wolverine basketball faithful around 2011-12.
The first glimpse of light for the program began with Miami native Tim Hardaway Jr., who signed his letter of intent in 2010. With the only other schools on his radar being Kansas State and Minnesota, Hardaway appeared to be a solid all around basketball player. Plus, he had the bloodline with his father.
Down in Columbus, Ohio at this time, former Penn State commit Trey Burke was on his way to choosing Michigan. With the loss of Darius Morris to the NBA, Burke filled the point guard slot as a freshman, and built his legacy from the ground up. Although Burke was a four star talent out of high school, his small frame is considered undersized by many. But, by his sophomore year he had become one of the nation’s top players in the backcourt.
After teaming together in the 2011-2012 basketball season, Burke and Hardaway Jr. made an appearance in the NCAA tournament, but were abruptly defeated by Ohio University, and once again the program looked flat.
Cycling into 2012-2013, the Wolverines immediately made noise. With a loaded freshman class including SG/SF Nik Stauskas, SF Glenn Robinson III, PF/C Mitch McGary and the scrappy and gritty Spike Albrecht, Michigan would go undefeated in non-conference play before losing their first contest just three games into Big Ten play, as Beilien was defeated by Thad Matta and Ohio State.
With a program record-tying start to the new campaign, Michigan climbed to No. 1 in the college basketball polls and was featured on ESPN’s College Gameday, before being defeated by No. 3 Indiana led by Victor Oladipo.
What the team was able to accomplish in the post season truly has shaped the Michigan basketball program as a whole, and established an expectation of success year in and year out.
Michigan would enter the South Region in the NCAA Tournament as the four seed, behind the play of NBA hopefuls in Burke, Hardaway, Robinson, McGary, and the ever-developing Stauskas, who simply shot the lights out as a freshman. Taking care of South Dakota State and VCU in the first two rounds berthed a Sweet Sixteen appearance with number one seeded Kansas.
In what was an epic contest behind the play and shot of Burke, Michigan was able to win the game in overtime, but how they got there was truly unbelievable. With less than ten seconds in the game, Burke hit one of the most legendary shots in Wolverine hoops history to take the Jayhawks into OT.
With the game sealed and wrapped up in overtime, Michigan would then face Florida in the Elite Eight and would roll behind the 6-6 three point shooting performance in the first half by Stauskas. It was in this game that his own legacy began.
Yet another exciting game against Syracuse in the Final Four resulted in a Michigan victory. With Louisville defeating Wichita State in the other game, the Wolverines were set to face the Cardinals in an unexpected 2013 National Championship matchup.
With the game within reach in the second half, there was one turning point in particular for Louisville to get over the hill. On a fast break opportunity, Louisville star Peyton Siva was rejected by Burke at the rim, and the play was called a foul, to the surprise of many frustrated Michigan fans. You be the judge.
After a team had come so far just to come up short, the 2013 runner-up team molded an expectation of greatness in something other than football in Ann Arbor. Since this incredible run, Michigan has continued a habit of winning basketball games, including another Elite Eight appearance in 2013-2014 and a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2016-2017.
To the Wolverines who were a part of the revival of Michigan basketball, the fans thank you, for restoring excellence to a well-deserving program, who will look to reload and compete once again in the 2017-2018 season.