Joe Stapleton: Michigan basketball in a one-act play

BY JOE STAPLETON
Daily Sports Editor
Published March 11, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS — (Cut to: Conseco Field House, home of the 2010 Big Ten Tournament)

The Michigan men’s basketball team has just won its first-round matchup against Iowa. It moves on to the second round of the tournament and will play at noon tomorrow against Ohio State.

(Cut to: the stands of Conseco, where two Michigan fans have just finished singing the Victors after the game. They sit down next to each other)

Michigan fan 1: Well, they almost gave that one away.

Michigan fan 2: Oh, come on. They couldn’t hit anything, but this time they found a way to win.

Fan 1: They were up by 16! How do you let Iowa get to within five with two minutes left?

Fan 2: Iowa did a good job fighting back. That Cully Payne kid kept them in the game. What’d he have, like, 20 points?

Fan 1: Twenty-five. Apparently, guarding him was optional. Anyway, it was the same old story as the rest of the season. They still can’t shoot and they’re still inconsistent offensively. I mean, they were under 30 percent from three, right?

Fan 2: Twenty-four percent.

Fan 1: (rolling his eyes) Good lord.

Fan 2: Yeah, except it’s not the same old story because this time they won. Look, you’re thinking too much about the season that was. They weren’t continuing to shoot poorly, they just had a bad shooting night. Trust me, it’s healthier to do what the team’s doing: just forget about this season and focus on the next game. Remember? It's a "new season."

Fan 1: Did Coach Beilein give you that line? Whatever, it’s not like your “new” (makes quotations in the air) season is going beyond Ohio State tomorrow.

Fan 2: What?! First of all, air quotes are really lame. Secondly, they obviously match up great with Ohio State! They beat them at home and played them real tough in Columbus. Hell, they were ahead at halftime!

Fan 1: Yeah, they beat them at home without Evan Turner, the Big Ten Player of the Year, and they had no business being ahead at halftime in Columbus. I want them to win as much as you do, but I just don’t see it happening. Yeah, Michigan won, but Iowa sucks. They won’t be playing Iowa tomorrow, they’ll be playing the best team in the Big Ten.

Fan 2: Or the third-best, depending on how you look at it. Whatever. I think they’re gonna win.

Fan 1: Well, I think they’re gonna lose.

(Fade to black)

Michigan fans, like most fan bases, are split between optimists and pessimists. This season has undoubtedly dealt a serious blow to the number of optimists in Michigan’s camp, but they’re out there.

The thing to remember, no matter what camp you fall into, is that today’s game against Ohio State may be the last game of the Manny Harris-DeShawn Sims era. Sure, they could win, but if this season is any indication, they will not. (I guess I’m betraying what camp I fall into. Oh, well.)

Barring a blowout like the Wolverines suffered last weekend at Michigan State, my advice to Michigan fans is this: just try to enjoy watching these two play. I’m not taking anything away from Anthony Wright or Zack Gibson, but these are the two players who have defined this program for the past three years. And today might be the last time they take the court together in Michigan uniforms.

Take it in, and just watch.

Stapleton can be reached at jstaple @umich.edu