ANN ARBOR – You could sense a special feeling in the air at Crisler Center Tuesday night. The stands were a little fuller than usual prior to tip for a November game as Michigan unveiled its two newest banners, numbers five and six of the Beilein era of Michigan hoops.
?That was cool, that?s always cool.? Beilein replied to a question about the ceremony. ?I was reflecting back about moments early in the year and moments early in practice and how that just sort of all started coming together. The Big Ten Championship especially…to win it back to back, four games in a row, I don?t know if it has ever been done winning four in a row back to back (Note: Michigan was the first team to do so in the 21 year history of the Big Ten Tournament) that was really special.? He concluded.
Michigan?s eight returning players watched a video package on the Crisler big board, many of them with wide grins as they reminisced about the Wolverines 33-8 season (33 wins were a single-season program record) that ended in a National Championship loss to Villanova.
?History.? is the first word that came to sophomore forward Isaiah Livers mind. ?It is something I will never forget and something I will tell my grandchildren that I was part of that team when Jordan (Poole) hit that shot and Moe (Wagner) had that big double-double game against Loyola, and it was just huge.?
As the eight returners looked back on a successful season, Michigan?s five freshman looked on from the side. Standing together, staring wide-eyed at the video board. No one is certain of the impact the group will have as a whole this year, but it was easy to sense that the banners were just another reminder of the expectations on them, and their team as a unit.
Jon Teske, who led the Wolverines with 13 points and played a pivotal role in the Wolverines Big Ten Tournament Championship win over Purdue,
?It was something special, I mean it doesn?t happen very often but that was last year.? said the Wolverines 7?1 junior. ?This is a new season, a new young team and we just gotta try and lead them back to that same spot.?
Ignas Brazdeikis was the only freshman to see significant run vs Norfolk State, playing 22 minutes and shooting 30% from the floor and 1 for 5 from 3PT range. His four fellow freshmen saw the floor in the waning minutes of the game, but if Michigan is to raise another banner, the freshmen not named Brazdeikis will have to make an impact.
While Michigan?s 63-44 final result was far from pretty, the Wolverines were happy to salute last season one final time before shifting to the challenges at hand for 2018-19, offense will be a big one based on the 40 minute sample provided.
John Beilein told the press Monday afternoon at pre-game availability that he recently was talking on the phone with his sister, Mary Jane, as he prepared to begin his 41st year as a college coach. ?She said how do you feel? I said the exact same way I felt 44 years ago when my New Fane JV team played in a game.? said the coach of his Monday morning phone call. ?You?re excited, you?re anxious. Did you cover everything? Your mind is spinning.? Come Tuesday night, Beilein?s mind may have been spinning during the game, but for a brief moment, as the banners rose, Beilein took to heart what it meant to see those long reams of maize and blue nylon rise to the ceiling yet again at Crisler Center.
?When you look at those banners, those banners aren?t going away. I mean they are gonna be up there forever, I will be dead and gone and they are still gonna be up there.? Beilein said with a wry smile post game. ?I think that is what?s special, for these kids to come in and walk in here thirty years from now and look at those banners and know they were a big part of them. Hopefully we will have a lot more up there by that time but it?s just something that is never gonna go away.?
The road to banner-worthy accomplishments this season will be a challenging one, but like the teams before them, it is a road the Wolverines are ready to hit running as the season begins.